by Lauren Banka
after Carvens Lissaint
When I am dead,
when the snakes and the beetles come to take my body away,
after you have spent a year in silence sewing shirts out of driftwood
and the pilgrims come to you with bloody feet to ask of me,
her glory, they say
her aura, they say
the glittering light that shone from her ears,
the dark flame of her hair, they say, tell them
I was all this and less. Tell them
my bones were made of packing foam
which stank to Hell in the summer and melted in the wet winters.
Tell them the shovel of my jaw was full of brass bearings,
sweating and fighting in the mosh pit of my mouth,
my throat a BB gun, that I used to spit them sizzling
at the faces of my closest friends. Tell them I was a fast learner.
Tell them my aim improved each time you saw me.
Tell them my eyes were shotglasses I asked everyone to refill.
Tell them I broke all my mirrors, just so I could have more mirrors.
Tell them you could always find me near mirrors, staring into gloss,
recognizing myself nowhere. Tell them I made too many promises
and too few secrets to ever keep any of either. When they ask you of me,
her tongue, they say,
it was a yellow hydra, wasn’t it,
and its five heads spit bitter, spit salty, spit sweet and spicy and strong,
and each head with twelve teeth,
and each tooth with a single cavity,
and in each cavity a tiny pearl,
and in each pearl a tiny door,
and in each pearl a truth, wasn’t it?
wasn’t it just like that?
You tell them
a truth that can fit in a door in a pearl in a cavity in the mouth
of one fifth of anyone’s hydra tongue is a useless truth. Tell them
I spit pearls at people too, and nobody thanked me for it,
and nobody should. Tell them I made them in my gut, swallowed
every irritant anyone sprayed, swallowed my own phlegm,
and clutched myself,
And when they stop asking questions. When their hearts
are vomiting a little in their own heart mouths, and they have just realized
how lost they are,
in a foreign country,
with bloody feet, they will ask you this:
but what about her size? We have heard
that she fit inside a mustard seed,
that her hammock was a half a walnut shell,
that she wore infant’s shoes her whole life long,
that she flew for free in a carry-on bag,
that she didn’t grow after age eight,
that she didn’t grow after age fourteen,
that shirts were dresses on her and capris, full-length pants,
that she had to look up to talk to children,
that she had to look down to talk to her uncles,
that she beanstalked over tall men,
that she could barely fit into most buildings,
that you had to hold meetings outside if you wanted her to come,
that she held her closest friends in her pocket
that she held power tools and sawdust in her pocket
that she held the continents stacked like baseball cards
in her pocket.
Tell them. Tell them I was all this and I was all this
and I was all of this. Tell them a third time
of my bitter anger, my hydra fury, my spitting mad.
Tell them I was small enough to fit in a brass bearing.
Tell them I scarred anyone who ever spoke to me,
that they carried my weight in their cheek. Did tricks
with it, when they wanted to flirt. Tell them how everyone left,
that they were right to. How these anchors of my anger
drifted like galaxies expanding, and the shortest distance
between one brass bearing and another was me,
and the longest distance between pearl and pearl was me.
Tell them how small I was. Tell them how large I was. Tell them
how small I still was. Tell them I took shots, and the world
was not always better for it. Tell them I left scars. Tell them
you can still see the mark.
Lauren Banka is an award-winning visual artist, poet, and organizer from Ann Arbor, Michigan, currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. She has performed and competed nationally, and has been published in the Lake River Review as well as two self-published chapbooks. She believes in the fundamental goodness of human nature.