after Susan Bordo
I remember my palm smothering my brother’s abhorrent mouth.
Younger, he was too much, oblivious to the faces of others,
and there was never a time where I was. His body was seamless,
running feral with the pack of boys who coveted our grass,
and my envy articulate, acute. Early, I understood
how women were kept in rooms; worse,
how frequently it was the result of their own volition. Early,
I sharpened spears in my backyard,
the sticks thinning under the rush of the sharp rocks,
the trees puckered from the amputation of limbs.
I could press them to my brother’s neck if I wanted;
I could kill an animal if I wanted. But I never did,
or I don’t remember. What I remember is knowing pleasure
at the sight of my shirt hiked up to my breasts,
the smoothness of the stomach that revealed itself at seven.
I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t doing that; lifting my shirt
and checking my width, my hands cleaving the fat. Even then, I knew
I could have a particular type of power; that soon,
I would let anyone touch me
in the same way I did myself.
while reading Virginia Woolf
The woman’s breath crowded her tongue. This I know.
How I have lived in the muteness of the home,
how I came to language slowly, learning injury
in my mother’s mouth flicking
and giving way to more, the words fixing argument,
then carving out my bones.
I spoke when I was spoken to, countered,
moved from the state of being watched
to watching. It’s futile, then: the memory of a man
teaching me to punch in the corner of a bar, as if you are spilling
a cup of coffee, or shutting myself in a basement,
splitting my muscles under the strain of black machines.
But Virginia, these conditions are far from perfect—
the distinction between hostility and indifference
is that indifference never had a mouth.
I whet mine in hostility’s wake: spent summers reading
while the hot blank metal of a chair imprinted into my skin.
I would peel an orange back to membrane,
enmesh its pulp in my teeth.
Watch as the went juice running, then was left
on my wrist, on my mutilated thumb;
left anxious, there, for the tongue of the dogs.
AMANDA LARSON is a writer from New Jersey, and an incoming MFA candidate in poetry at New York University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College.