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The prompt, grabbed from my friend Chris DeLorenzo of Laguna Writers, was this: Ghosts do leave shadows.
Here’s what I wrote in response:
Today I’m feeling quiet. I’m not hazarded by ghosts, or maybe I’m emptied ad so there’s little for the ghosts to stick to. I’d like some sleep, a long soak in a hot tub, more dancing, a good make out session at the back of a bar. Put your head on this pin and bleed on me. I’m severing something new, like lancing the tether of skin that holds your tongue taut in the mouth, wanting greater reach, more range of motion. Something tied in me wants to be free, and the only ghosts these day are the celebratory ones, my grandmother’s smiling faces, their mothers’ too, and the women before. Are they really the sort of women who would celebrate a perverted daughter like me? These are my ghosts, their soft strong bony weighted cupping hands sheltering the new wings that are unlacing themselves from my shoulderblades — and why wouldn’t these foremothers be pleased that the daughter who once spent her dark mornings beneath the pale, furred belly of her mother’s second husband would now lift up those same split thighs, stained vulva, anviled belly, cauterized tongue and once-sewn lips and understand them, finally, as holy?
I can’t get enough of this metaphor, this newness, this sense, after twenty years of rage, that I can do something more than just say I love this skin — I can in fact actually allow it and be here and mine, cells and scars, stretch marks and seam of muscle; that my hands can just now be these good eloquence, not only their long yellow history; not the gentle tender home for sets of testicles that we didn’t want to touch. How this body is not glare or mask, no longer severed from the me I’d one day hope to become.
I am trying to write my way fully into this experience, I want to give you those years and layers of hiding, clothes don’t fit don’t bother don’t look this skin isn’t fit for the oxygen it consumes and somehow — now — I am relinquished from that backhand banter with shame and moving through the plum blossom days with new delight — Look, I want to tell the bay porpoise I saw this morning leaping up through the choppy waves lining the velvet space between Alcatraz and the Embarcadero — look, I’ve got one of those, too, a body. It’s exquisite, isn’t it, just to be able to run and swim and breathe?
How can I give you this delightedness, my own disbelief? I’m both waiting for the shame to fall again and somewhere, thick and meaty inside, I’m aware that something is irrevocably changed in me, that this is what healing and survivor looks like on me now, or part of, or encapsulates, contains, inhabits, incorporates — or, no, embodies. Right. Embodies.
(Thanks for being here today, for reading and dreaming, for writing you own good and necessary stories.)