There are days I live named not good
for anybody. A single misstep
shakes awake the whole
sleeping house. I stand in front of a mirror
that’s upside-down, do my hair around the crack
in the well of my worst nightmare. I, myself,
when I am awake. Shaving
in the shower I dream
about cutting my own breasts
from my chest,
globs of flesh from my own
the mirror and razoring
across my face, my lips and legs this
is what you’ve done to me.
Outside the house, roving eyes
follow me everywhere,
I am whistled at, cat-called, bat-mouthed,
barked at: I long for a greeting in Swahili that means
don’t fucking look at me like that.
I can’t pass the shadow spot on the road, where the light
does not reach, can’t pass between
the houses because my feet are filled
with terror, my entrails
with hunger for a calm
I can’t eat. If there was a bottle of tequila
or a knife fight,
or a bar brawl, I’d crawl
right in there and take it over.
I hate the word survivor,
because it means tethered to the thing
you survived. If you tie a pencil
to a piece of string, pin-prick
a center, and pull it out tight,
push it round to the left, right, left
you get a perfect circle, an invisible
point of origin.
Do you know why I
am always in motion,
on the road? For the same reason
the pencil faces outward: when we reach
the edge of our rope the line
gets taut, we swing or are swung
in triumphant arches
round its outer
boundary, feel only the wind
on our face, a slight tug
under our belly button.
In other words:
we are no longer aware
This fate, for me and the pencil:
call it freedom.
Hannah is a philosopher, humanitarian, and super-nerd extraordinaire. She is based in East Africa, but is frequently on the move in pursuit of things to think and write about.
Runner-Up, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize