Any of the three poems we received for this month’s Reader Poem contest might have been the “winner.” In the end we chose Marissa Anne Ayala’s “Spectroscopic” because of the way she keeps surprising us with the turns her poem takes.
But we greatly admired Jennifer Hernandez’ “Stellar Survivor” (which incorporates several of this month’s prompts) and Devon Balwit’s “First Generation: A Golden Shovel.” As always, we are grateful to those who are inspired to play with us, and to the readers who provide these poems a home in their minds.
Your ass has a spherical shape; strongly elliptical & the interstellar material of your spine is an explosion of stars — the non-binary formation of your body can be broken into two theories:
1) the camera highlighted the region of radiation across your breasts & when you reached a limit (you) normalized time by placing glass beads on a string and wrote to the ether in some form like the poems you wrote in Colorado telling me to fly, Icarus, fly & we will all catch up with you & I hypothesize that your body is split from radiation & in the splitting there is the “you” I remember – when you were “she” but they cut a portion of “she” from you – but you were already “they” a dissolution of gender separate from the cicatrixes – but I only know a “she” memory of you, which is an error because when you were “gendered” – you weren’t really gendered & I caught up with you, the real Icarus, who taught me bodies are not anatomical representations of self – that it is language that creates a binary division and that this division of pronouns trapped you into “her” and “she” was finally released so they lives with incisions but that does not eclipse you from being whole from being they.
2) Needles pierced epidermis & my camera exposed the gray clusters of blood residue collecting in aureoles around each prick – I placed a knife in your hands and you said no, I tied your back into a corset and you said yes & there was a cat or a girl named Kat who held the silver slips of metal as my lens drew in clicking on the composition of your back as if you were the supernova and I was some type of satellite & Kat just orbited not knowing where to land — but when the needle did land, you decompressed oxygen from your lungs & I captured the curves of your back, shoulders, and hip knowing that at that time you were 100% – a true universe of skin and blood & muscle & mucus and not a vessel for chemo – but even as a vessel for chemo I know that you always survive & in the version of you I keep (a silver gelatin print) born from that hallway between the living room and the bathroom, & developed in red lit room where your pierced body hung as the image appeared & now I wonder if you are really Icarus – the person who flew so close to the sun – because we did catch up with you, eventually.
But I lost track of our pre-nova relationship & I wish you, the normal star, could merge with me, the truly explosive, because in Colorado your brilliance was the basis of our discussions on language & I understood more about the body-young, now the body-old, and the philosophical musings of sign to cosign when you taught me to question everything and accept nothing & even our bodies can’t determine ourselves, cannot define who we are.
Marissa Ayala is a writer based in New York City. Her work is featured in Tupelo Press, Handwritten, Kolaj Magazine, and Strata Magazine. You can find her on Twitter @MarissaAAyala
The bits that make us
are the bits left over.
Nuclear fusion. Super-heated
gases expanding and firing off
into the universe in all directions.
That power is part of us.
What potential. Surely,
there is nothing we can’t do.
All that energy neither created,
nor destroyed. Only transformed.
Energy is all that is. All we are.
Faceless fish or Wonder Woman.
Calyx or eggplant. Good neighbor
in a crisis. Gravity holds us
to the ground. But what if
we want to float, to fly,
to defy the laws of physics?
So many rules, pressures
conspire to hold us down,
bind us to earth. What if we
Jennifer Hernandez lives in Minnesota where she teaches immigrant youth and writes poetry, flash, and creative non-fiction. Recent work appears in Dying Dahlia, Mothers Always Write and Yellow Chair Review.
First Generation: A Golden Shovel
It’s true. We were like feed corn shucked to nakedness, still stemmed but
no longer alive. The locust plague had swept clean through; in
us, neither trust nor frivolity remained. This
hollowness clattered us against one another, making a dark
music from our suffering, each moment
keening with the resonance of
loss. The crisis
was not for us, but for our children, a
stripping of the myth that they were safe. A handful
of us took our own lives. Others went through the motions, but were parodies of
our former selves. Still, time passed. We learned that corpses made good
fertilizer and dug our own bones into furrows. We proved to our neighbors
that given enough time, a new thing always emerged.
Devon Balwit writes in Portland, OR. She has five chapbooks out or forthcoming. Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, The Stillwater Review, Red Earth Review, Tule Review, The Ekphrastic Review; Noble Gas Quarterly; Muse A/Journal, and more.