Tag Archives: healing

sister stories that continue

Good morning — it’s dark out there, and I can hear the helicopters. Or maybe that’s just my old refrigerator readying for takeoff.  I’m not awake enough to say for sure.

Not enough sleep last night and here I am awake this morning into the blog instead of the notebook, wanting to talk about sistering and change. This weekend I heard a story about a long waiting, about barrenness and believing for a long time that there will only be barrenness, that nothing (after trauma) can bear fruit — and finding, after a long waiting, that there is a flower where before there were only bare branches; finding an orchard of beauty to feed you where for years before you had found only wishes and loss.

This will be short this morning, as there’s a lot to do today, beginning with some rest and replenishment time. This weekend my sister came to see me and we were safe together. We held space with and for one another. After years of being afraid that we would never be healed enough to be close again, I felt comfort and ease in her presence (and in my body when we were together). This is so deep and new that I can’t quite find words for it yet — what’s new is the part inside me understanding that we are ok. Not that we will be ok — that we are. Continue reading

deserving acceptance

And then there was a bit of winter break, which here in northern California looks like a chilly spring break, what with all the green everywhere. We had some rain and some wind, we look out the window into bright blue this morning, we find how to best fit our bodies, glorious with the aches of morning, into our chairs so that we can pick up the pen and write into a new year.

Happy 2013 to you! Do you have an annual reflection and/or intention writing practice? What were the words that best described or shaped 2012 for you? What words do you want to hear more from in 2013? What if we could start this new year by honoring exactly where we are, and moving from there?

This morning I am an ache and a tightness, I am delighted to be able to sit in my chair at my computer. I read poems, avoiding the demands of email for a bit longer. Today is the first day of my new work life, after a two-month surprise detour into the land of pain and recuperation, and as I make plans and set intentions, both macro and micro, I think about how to ease my anxiety and panic with sheer acceptance, breathing deep into exactly what is. Continue reading

an impossible intimacy

graffiti of blue bandaids, one crossed over the other to make an x, on a brick wallgood morning good morning. I am in the aftermath of mom time. I am in my small room and trying to make sense of this life I am just now choosing for myself. In the dream last night someone was mugged, a woman had been hurt and we were doing a fundraiser for her maybe. I woke up and told the story of the dream to myself so that I would remember but all I have now is the word mugged, some sense of aftermath, people taking care of her, a sense of threat, we weren’t safe, it could happen again.

After I drop my mother off at the airport, I go to a coffee shop in a shopping mall, I order tea and sit outside in the breezy afternoon sun, I think I’m going to pour myself into writing but I can barely breathe. Next to me, a small family, a man and a woman and a very tall girl child. She looks like a great dane puppy, all muscles and flop, surely an athlete; she drapes herself over her mother, wraps her arms around her mother’s smaller shoulders. I wonder, what is it like to be the one trying for mother’s affection, to want your body in such proximity to the body that formed you, the body that drew you up, the body that let you go. What is it like to have that feel ok, to have such closeness be a welcome thing, to not have to shutter myself off inside, away from the vulnerability that opens in me just by being in her presence? Continue reading

the deep vein of your body’s true story

stencil graffiti that reads: I say / the say/ the say/ says/ me/say/sayGood morning good morning good morning. Who is feeding you this Wednesday? What does it sound like where you are? Here, I think it’s mostly quiet outside — there’s a lot of clamor in my head this morning, so it’s hard to say for sure.

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Tonight’s the Erotic Reading Circle, 7:30-9:30pm at the Center for Sex and Culture — if you are local to the Bay Area and are doing any writing that involves sexuality or desire, I invite you to join us. The folks who gather at the ERC consistently impress me with the power and variety of their work, and, too, with the generosity of their feedback for one another. It’s a good space for sharing new work, and a safe space for folks who are just starting to offer their work to others. It would be great to welcome you into the Circle!

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Today I am thinking about stories, and about this idea of re-storying, which is like restoring, but with story, right? Here are two quotes that are with me this morning:

Thomas King, in The Truth About Stories, writes,

The truth about stories is that that’s all we are. ‘You can’t understand the world without telling a story,’ the Anishinabe writer Gerald Vizenor tells us. ‘There isn’t any center to the world but a story.’

And then there’s this from Dorothy Allison’s interview in Writing Below the Belt:

Sexually, I have a fetish about truth telling. It does help in my work. I find it profoundly arousing to watch somebody struggle to articulate their desires. One of the things my girlfriend and I say together, around this whole thing, is that you can have anything you want if you have the courage to ask for it. But having that courage to ask for it, wow! So we set up situations where you can have anything, honey — you just have to be able to ask for it.

Hold those two quotes against each other for a moment.

These are the questions living in me right now (living is perhaps to passive a verb. Exploding is a little bit more accurate): What are the stories you are telling that shape you, that shape what’s possible for your life, what’s possible for or around your big life-desires? What would it mean if you could find exactly the language for what it is you want? What if you released that language, that desire, into the world with no expectations, no demands?

I am thinking about story today, and how it relates to how I have been living in my body for these nearly-forty years, but most especially over the last about-twenty years, since I both breaking contact with my stepfather and coming out as queer.Those two life-altering, body-and-deep-sense-of-self-altering experiences, occurred during the same time frame for me, and so they have been woven into each other, one entirely of and about the other. My queerness was necessarily about my trauma. My experience of incest was entirely queered. I can’t, still, take them apart –and don’t want or need to. That story is still true for me.

The story of my body has changed many times for me over the years — in particular, the story of my queer and queerly-gendered body. When I first came out I was so often so excited to be in this body and accepted; I found my desire and seduction on the dance floor, and fed it to everyone who could meet my eyes. And then, as I moved more fully into a gay identity, and more fully, too, into a sense of myself as survivor, I wanted to be visible, acceptable and protected, and offered my body into butchness the way the knight offers himself into his armor, and for similar reasons. I wanted the sword and shield, to defend someone’s honor (sometimes even that of my own inside-self), wanted a safe reason to kneel down. But armor only contains what we allow it to, and the girl in me kept leaking out, through all the seams, making herself visible, insisting that she be known, no matter how hard I fought and buckled and bound. So finally, some few years ago, I renounced (didn’t I?) and mourned that butch self and allowed (do we really get to allow this?) my body to mean girl again in the world, to mean visible woman, to be read as femme. I wanted to be all and only girl, Farrah Fawcett, please & thank you. (I have discovered that she lodged somewhere deep in me, and early, as the epitome of female sexiness, and am kind of delighted by how that marks me as of a particular time and place.) But, oh, sometimes our bodies reveal their stories to us, show us that we are not in control of them, and I came to understand that the interweaving that marked me as a child, that tomboy girl with dirty scuffed knees in the skirt that twirled high and a book clutched always in her hands, marks me still, that I bring both and more with me everywhere my body chooses to carry me. That I get to claim that both-and-more-ness as my birthright.

And the sense that I am actually able to claim anything, I mean fundamentally understanding anything, about my body as birthright is more powerful than I have words for right now. You understand, don’t you? At just the moment when I was meant to begin to learn my body’s own stories, gendered and sexual stories, stories of her desires and possibility, there was a man who entered my life and, soon, my body, who took it upon himself to retrain me into his stories. And I have been living in and struggling with those stories ever since (at the same time that I was trying to learn how to talk, how to use the same words that other people use, how to be human), and did not ever expect to –did not even consider the option that I might– reach within myself a deep vein of my own body’s true story. That I could hold in my hands a glimmer of this sense: this is who my body would have been anyway, even if he hadn’t come into it and tried to blow it apart.

Do you know what that means, why I feel lifted off the ground these days, like song and blown plum blossoms?

So there’s a new story rising like bread in me, rising like candleflame, rising like a skirt over the subway grate, rising like love and open hands, and I don’t have quite the language for it yet, but it’s a profoundly new articulation about the possibilities for and of my body. Not just about what my body can do  — about what it can be, what it can mean.

That’s as far as I can get into it just right now — there’s more, I know, and I’m journaling it, and will bring more here as I have it. For now, though, use those quotes up there as a prompt, if you want. Take 10 minutes (I’m looking at you there on your first writing morning) and let yourself into the stories you, or your characters, tell about their lives, tell about their bodies, their desires. What are those stories? What do you (they) want the stories to be? As ever, follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

I’m grateful for you today. Thank you for the freedom and shelter you have offered your own and others’ stories. Thank you for the hard work of healing you’ve done, and do. Thank you thank you for your words.

listening to the body’s stories

graffiti: black wingsThis isn’t like that — this is like something else. (That’s how it begins.)

Last night, I went to one of Vanissar Tarakali‘s workshops, Do It Yourself Trauma: Healing principles and practices to support your personal healing process. I want to follow my own instincts, these desires to let others both help and witness me into my body, to do the incredibly simple but also simultaneously (sometimes) devastating work of just noticing what’s going on in my body and letting it be. Last night Vanissar talked about emotional first aid (she talks about it on her blog here), and then we practiced some of what she described: grounding into the body, physical practices to meet and/or engage with particular feelings, appreciating the body for doing all that it does to take care of us (and this includes our trigger responses, the stuff we do that we don’t want to do anymore because it doesn’t serve us but it did serve us once upon a time), lots more. The three hours flew by! Here’s a great thing she said: if you beat yourself up for the ways that your body responds when it thinks it’s threatened, that’s going to seem like a threat! Whew.

What do I want to say about this? This morning I am both more achy and less — the armor around my shoulders (which last night I began envisioning like a pair of shoulder pads, the kind that footballers wear) feels softened. Not gone, just malleable; not penetrable, but able to shift some.

Here’s some of what is coming up for me in several different arenas these days, as I am interacting more with somatics/generative somatics work: it’s ok to appreciate how my body has kept me safe, the instincts that my psyche developed to protect us. Getting angry at and ashamed with myself for freezing or walling up or “going away” or getting defensive or… (fill in your own — this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list for me!) only reinforces that I’m in a difficult or dangerous situation; it’s like beating a puppy for doing something you wish she wouldn’t do.

This is some powerful unlearning: what happens if I’m curious and appreciative about the triggered-response? What if I can just meet it with gratitude for its wisdom? Vanissar talked about how the body wants to tell us its stories — and we can allow it to, if we can meet ourselves in this way, if we can notice with gratitude and curiosity, instead of (or, sometimes, alongside the) shame and anger and frustration. What if I practice other ways of being in my body? Slowly, the instinctual responses become options, one of many different possible responses to a triggery or dangerous situation. This morning I notice the stiffness in my neck and back, and a kind of swollen energy around that part of my body — I’m about to go meet it with some hot water in the shower, be a little tender to the places I’ve often been frustrated with.

I want to write more clearly about all this right now, and, too, I am softened and sleepy and rushed.

It reminds me of what happens in the workshops, how there’s no wrong way to respond, how so much of what I appreciate about our workshop method is the invitation to notice just exactly how our writing wants to go, and when we follow that, when we teach our writing voices that we trust them, that our stories are trustworthy exactly the way that they want to come out, other stories begin to emerge, our writing shifts and stretches and expands: not because we’ve forced it to do so, but because we’ve met it with curiosity and appreciation and trust.

So what happens if I meet my body with those same principles? Interesting (!) how that feels so new and foreign, in spite of the fact that I’ve got that method for engaging with creative process embedded in my cells! Trauma recovery is creative process, of course, because humans are creative process.

Want to write about this some today? Are there ways that you or your characters respond in triggery situations that aren’t working for you/them anymore? What are those responses? Can you write into them with this energy of curiosity, noticing, witness? Can you let them tell their stories? This isn’t necessarily about writing what could be different, but exactly what’s happening now. Let that response/reaction feel the breadth of your attention, be all the way known.

Thank you for your brilliant, gorgeous, wise self, for all of the articulated and unarticulated ways that your psyche/body have worked to keep you safe and alive and here. Thank you for your endless and constant creativity, for your good words.

this part

stencil graffiti of a young childShe said, This is what you survived for. This is the healing part.

Oh.

I’m alive with that today, opening to it, and I leave it for you, too, for all of your parts and selves to consider –

to write into, if you want to.

This moment, even: This is what you (we) survived for.

Thank you for that.

using what’s gone fallow inside her

photo of poppies by a wall, their shadows collaborating with the graffiti there.I missed you yesterday! After a gorgeous and intense workshop on Monday night, I wasn’t able to get up as early as I’d wanted — not til 7, which gave me enough time to do my morning three pages in my notebook but not enough time before leaving for work to do the blog. Thought I might do it from work, but work was, you know, work. Busy. And most days when I get home from work (since I spend all day on a computer), I don’t turn the computer on. Last night I got to have a quiet meal at home (miracle) with my honey, and then we spent a little time in the back art cottage, getting table and art supplies set up (finally), moving the storage around, bringing candle and incense and images for the walls, bringing a radio and red wine and human scent, so that the little visitors who maybe have been spending time there in that space know that they’re about to have some company. Felt very good.

Once I was done hanging pictures and consolodating boxes, I sat in the rocking chair and imagined myself working in that space. Then I picked up the copy of Jack Kornfeld’s  The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, a book my mom lent to me when I was in Omaha the last time. After this weekend’s body mindfulness workshop, I was grateful to read and think more about the idea of mindfulness, and how constant and deep-veined busy-ness is the opposite of mindfulness (isn’t it?). I let myself just notice the places I was tense and achy, just notice, and maybe breathe into them a little bit, like Alex would suggest. I’m grateful for her guidance and leadership and friendship.

Last night I dreamed about my mother and sister and stepfather, again. Do you have those recurring, themed dreams? In this one, I was throwing things at him, feeling so strong, hating him cleanly, not pretending like everything was ok. At the end, my mother said she was going to leave him, but she was Bruce Willis (but only when she said that part) in the dream.  Maybe that was the persona she’d have needed to be able to go — I could analyze that further, but I just want to leave it alone.

Today I’ve got a prompt and a write for you.

On Monday I offered these four sentences as prompt suggestions:

1-They know she is capable of just about anything

2-We ought to hold on to what we’re given

3-I’m not one of those women who can…

4-I used to think my eyes were the problem.

The invitation is always the same, but I repeat it: notice which one seems to be choosing you, which one has some electricity for your writing self. Change it in any way that’s interesting for you: add a not where there isn’t one (or take one out that’s there), or change the pronouns (from I to s/he/ze or you).

Here’s my write in response:

We stop and make love for ourselves. They know
she is capable of just about anything. She tendrils her arms
around the wishy-washy, through the hesitation and the moldy
plants of whatever you want is fine with me, she sheds her green
through what’s begun to decay, sits quiet at the center
of a dark morning room and makes marks of chlorophyll
on the page, she suckers in the dew and the pollen,
she is seeding what’s gone fallow inside her –

they know she is capable of just about anything. Her mouth
is sewn shut, not with ribbon or lace or sutures
but with morning glories and sweet peas, she sweats
beneath the dense layerings of new winter
foliage, the plants are using what’s gone fallow
inside her. Someone sprinkles her back
with vetch, nudges alfalfa beneath her arms,
puts fava beans between her toes, and she takes
what gentle feeding these plants have to give

she can hear them whispering to each other, going
about their work, she doesn’t have to say a thing,
can feel the roots of their toes pushing into her,
peeking out what nutrition she can still offer,
beginning the cyclical work of land that needs
some healing. Her hands are nested down
into the grasses beneath tiny mouse babies
and her legs are taken up by anthills and grasshopper
perches — the sun is a thick grey green glow

on the other side of the vining that shades
her forehead and as the light fades she can listen
to the warbling, feel the douse of breeze that the bat’s wing
pushes to her cheek, she knows there’s a daddy longlegs
on her calf and she wants to rustle her own fur
back in its direction, releasing what’s gone
fallow inside her to all this tremendous artistry,
alchemy, that will make her whole again.

Thank you for your alchemy, for how you spin gorgeous possibility out of what others have called dross, for your quietnesses and your fierce voice. Thank you for your words.

far away from where we started

Good damn morning, San Rafael – thank you for the incredibly loud noise, the jackhammering, the slamming doors.  Now, yes, I get it: wake up early, Jen, and you will be able to focus before all this starts.

San Francisco graffiti - circle dance. (mpujals' photostream)My sister and her sweetie are here and we were up talking until 1:30, about relationships and friends, about addiction and getting help of all kinds and more.  I set my alarm for 6:30, hopefully, but of course completely ignored it. And had dreams that were sort of about crime again, about being a part of a crew who were escaping, or helping a group of folks escape. Or maybe I was pat of the group that was gathering to bring those folks back in, but they were friends of mine, the folks who had escaped, maybe I was sort of a traitor but they didn’t know.  At the end of the dream, I’m trying to dance up the stairs like/with a teenage boy who’s just sort of learning to pose and preen, and he and I are posewalking. We’re strutting up the stairs to The Miami Sound Machine’s “Do the Conga.”  I can’t really dance, can’t make my body do what it feels, it’s like I’m constricted.  Which frustrates me because I really start feeling the music, or maybe what I start feeling is the dancing.  There was stuff in the dream about getting taken in, caught – somehow I knew that the authorities were coming, and I was a part of the group getting caught.  We some of us went and folded down when the authorities came.  Is that right?  The one authority person who came in first was a tall lanky dyke, and our friend gave herself up, she went and bent down for her, and when she bent over her dress fell over her body, and she was skinner than toothpicks, she had no fat anywhere and hardly any muscle, she was barely sticks, emaciated, starved, gone.

Last night I was looking at my sister while she talked and she sounded like she always has, like my little sister. As though her voice hasn’t changed since we were small.  It’s her forever voice, the one that lives in my body, and I get to have that pleasure because I was already here when she was born, and so I have known her voice since it came to be in the breathing world. So there’s this sense that we’re still small, we’re still young, we still have time – and then I look at her face, and see these small crinkles around her eyes.  This isn’t about calling out age: this is about realizing that small girls don’t have those particular crinkles.  Those are a woman’s crinkles.  We are aging.  I thought, we’re running out of time.  What if we don’t make it before….?

But what does it mean to make it?  We got out, we got help, we have survived new.  But still: I want something else for us, for her.  Extraordinary, untethered, unbounded, unbroken joy.  Places where she’s free of her/our history, moments when we know we did more than survive or get beyond what was done to us – moments when none of that matters anymore.  Days when we go unaffected, when we don’t think about it, that history, that past.

I’m not saying we don’t live joy-containing lives, lives with curiosity and wonder, lives with big smiles and gut-splitting laughter.

Looking at here, for a split-second, I felt like we were running against the clock (still). Like we’re still racing, trying to get out from under him, that past, our separation.

But look at where we were: in F!’s & my home in northern California, eating ice cream and popcorn, me and my sister, here with our loves, together, far away from where we started, and talking honestly about our lives. With no sense that the world would shatter if we told our true stories. With no fear of honesty (or, ok, less fear — maybe different fear).

Look at where we were: 15 years since we both got out, embracing one another at the airport without shame.

Look at where we were: telling our true stories in the dark with our sweethearts at our elbows and nobody was afraid of dying in that moment.

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Don’t forget: tomorrow, Saturday, July 17th, is this month’s Writing the Flood. 1-4:30, downtown San Francisco.  Let me know if you want to join us – there are still a few open spaces.  This is a fun and open space where you can do the writing that you want to do, even if you don’t know what that writing is, exactly, when you step into the room.  If all you know is that you really want to get some words on the page, and (even more) you’d kind of like to be surprised by those words: come on down.

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Here’s what I wrote, several weeks ago, at the last Art for Recovery workshop meeting for the Summer session.  The prompt was a small round mirror that fits in your hand:

She can’t help looking in the mirror, watching the age come.  She knows she should look more toward imporant-er things–the state of the union, the state of her community, the state of her laundry–but instead she peers into the magnifying mirror, peers at hairs that have appeared, peers at new lines and smudges beneath her eyes that makeup doesn’t erase.  And so, in seeing the age and the history, she lets herself see the beauty, filters through into the child face that used to appear in that bathroom glance, the teenagers tearstained smear, the young woman’s rage, the complexifying sadness. She recollects hairstyles and reasons for looking, putting on makeup or using a set of clippers to square off her hairline – her memory of mirror is her memory of herselves.  This is what she sees when she looks in the mirror: the same eyes that have always been there, the same dented nose, the same too-big grin, the legacy of scars that life has left her with, and the possibility and rapture of change

This is what I want to say about mirrors – they can never be fact, because we always experience them through our eye’s interpretation – and vision, as we know is not what, is not a sure thing, not objective or clean, and yet always and momentarily there.  How can we live with these contradictions of self, how can we see in the mirror the legacy of our change and the stunning beauty of our right now bodies, these fragile tender knotty knobby wrinkling cascades of nerve endings that we walk around in, that carry us to our doom, which is every glorious minute of life, and we can accept the flash in any reflecting surface because that sight reassures us: we are here, now. We have to see it to believe it, to believe in self as well as other, believe in now as well as yesterday, believe in the fierce and necessary beauty of our present selves as reflected very clearly and every day in that terrible and terrific friend, the bathroom mirror.

Holding up around the bones and breath of me

This is a write from Monday night’s Write Whole workshop — the prompt was a Band-Aid!

Band-Aids are super sterile now — they just smell like air.  They used to smell like something, I think, they used to smell like plastic and medicine, they used to smell like a wound and its healing, they used to smell like recovery or its possibility. And there was always a box of them in the hallway closet outside the bathroom, where the overflow toiletries and first aid stuff lived, and the box had a hundred different sizes of Band-Aids, the big elbow-sized ones and the ones with cut-outs for knuckle or thumb (those hour-glass shaped ones ere always the last ones left in a box), then the tiny, pinky-toe ones and the circle ones that really only ever got used when you go to the doctor and have to get a shot.

As a kid I was constantly covered with scratches and scars and scams, having stubbed this or fallen off my bike and scraped that or dug in rocky soil with my fingers and jabbed something else — but I don’t remember being especially band-aid-covered. Maybe when an opening in my skin wouldn’t stop bleeding after the application of paper towel or toilet paper and pressure — ok, there’d be a good time for a band-aid.  But otherwise, I preferred to let air and skin and coagulants (although I didn’t know that word then) do their thing.  Bandages got ragged and dirty on me real quick — I didn’t like having to keep something clean.

When my sister cut her foot during a trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo, when she slipped while we were walking on the raised concrete at the edge of the path and the sharp bottom of the metal cyclone fencing snagged into her ankle and she got rushed to the hospital (thereby, I think I’ve mentioned before, ruining our zoo trip, which was all I could focus on then), she had to get stitches and then wear a bag on her foot for forever, whenever she showered, until they healed — that just looked like torture to me.  I wouldn’t have done very well with the stitches.  They would have got pulled out of me torn and dirty, I think.

I trusted my skin to do its job, and mostly it has, holding up around the breath and bones of me, seizing its chances to throb and moan and rest now and then, when I’m too rough, healing up around itself again and again and again.

Bearing my chest to the mouth of the world

The prompt was “a love letter to the body.” Folks can interpret this all sorts of ways — I often find myself offering these letters to one part of my body or another, usually some part that I feel (especially) complicated about. This time, well, I think you can pretty quickly tell which part I’m needing to send some love to.

It’s true that I have been grateful for your heft and weight ever since you had any heft and weight. I should apologize now for those months, just as you were budding, that I squeezed you (well, us) into two sizes too-small tube tops (wasn’t that one kind of a grassy green, and ribbed or ruffly or something?) in front of the full-length mirror in the basement of mom’s duplex apartment on California Street — you were all stifled, unable to breathe, but I puffed you out and paraded like a girl was supposed to, bent my arms back like not-yet-broken wings and posed for the dank and empty room while little sqares of sunlight flowed in from the small windows high up on the cement wall. I was trying to hurry you along, wanted the big, full curves of Farrah Fawcett, maybe, or HotLips Houlihan, or, yeah, Daisy Duke — who else would I/we have been inspired by back then? Maybe elementary school teachers, and a couple of classmates whose development had already, well, developed. We didn’t have anything especial to show the world for some time, though, did we? Just a flush roundness that seemed small compared to everything we noted, the girls who wore tight t-shirts, the porn underneath my parent’s bed.

When did you flesh out so nice for me? By the time I was in college, I was cupping you in fine fake lace (remember that one green bra? a grown up version of that tube top, now with something to form itself around) and offering you more readily to others’ eyes. We wore frills under leather jackets or oxford shirts and admired the contrast. I was just learning how to appreciate all the curves I’d longed for back a decade earlier, but then it became much safer to flatten you down beneath sports bras, to clothe my own self in boy garb and butch realness, though even then I just couldn’t cotton to how the guys wanted to do away with their girl bits, from their tits on down, the guys who’d been horrified at how girl developed over and onto their bodies, the bodies they’d just learned to be comfortable in as little boys — but not me, remember? This was something I kept my mouth closed about, lest I reveal myself (even further) as not a real butch: I adored my breasts. Even as I reached out toward transitioning, set my safety against the idea of walking in the world only as male, what stopped me was this: how could I give you up? I cupped my hands around you, when I was alone, and couldn’t reconcile these realities.

You put up with this hemming in and hewing out, how I lavished attention on you during sex (wither alone or with others), but otherwise kept you battened down like all the rest of my hatches. You showed me off to be a girl, I suppose, as breasts are wont to do, and I loved you then as I do now, though I was so scared of what it meant that I was, in fact, a girl (goddamnit).

It took a long time to let you back out again, and one of the first things we did as a way to lay our claim again in girlhood was put aside the smashing-down sports bras and accept ones that showed you as you truly are.

I think sometimes I’m still awful ambivalent about you, not giving you the caressing, the (yes) tongue-baths, the suckling, the snaring and snarling, the pinching and piercing, the laving, the oiling, the tenderness and sweet meanness you deserve because of the nerve memory you still store in your cells, because of the remembering I do every time you’re stroked, because of how his mouth still lives there, always the first.

You remind me now that all of our cells die and are replaced, that every seven years or so we are new — so that you are two and close to three times renewed since the last unasked-for, unwelcomed touch. When will you let me be free, you ask me, and I hold onto the question like something untethered from history, something solely possible, something like bearing my chest to the mouth of the world.