“The opposite of rape is understanding”
Duplex, Jericho Brown
i begin as a foreign body.
it is a form of mothering
to hurt yourself
rather than others;
and so— is it the mother,
that is both fire and the burned?
it is an illusion to believe
i must continuously sacrifice myself
to gain something.
where is the beginning
of the relationship we share?
which action that bashert connection
between loving and loved?
it amazes me to silence,
and so maybe it is bashert:
fated, soul mated, routed at Waterloo—
the relationship between mammal mother
and her young.
bashert how the body
bashert how it changes,
prepares to open.
the bones separate
and muscles loosen
and a great space is made
of light and empty sun.
my partner asks me questions like
did you ever picture yourself
and i think when he asks it that way
i used to be afraid of childhood
because mine had a big red[acted] slash through it
ages four to five,
those torn pages out of my first diary
the only memory I have of telling anyone
hold a secret in the hem of your diagram,
vantage point crooked like a lost bird’s eye
pitching forward in the amniotic sea.
i reach for what is there this way.
Love is permission and i almost have it;
i see glimpses of our birth coming on.
hers and mine, curling smoke,
these creaking wrists in the mirror.
from my childhood abuse to my body,
this is where pregnancy has brought me.
not death; not this death.
my daughter’s birth is rebirth
(The Kanye West Test)
anger isn’t the most useful weapon,
but i yelled at him. don’t want this delusion
to be so wrong headed.
remember that this has happened before?
remember at dinner, when cousin
Alex asked dad
if family meals made him gay—
“was it the orange juice?”
and dad got angry.
angry at such nonsense,
and i wondered what Alex really meant.
my partner says i can’t judge the genius of Kanye West,
or lack thereof,
because all i see is my family’s dragging ghost.
the soft face of a man
somewhere in between
science and magic
i imagine the precipitant event.
i unsmear the storm across him.
i unvacate his eyes.
i untug the cork and flood him back inside.
a good madness
lines the nest of his ghost.
a ghost so solid on the skyline,
concrete as my grief.
tell me, spirit,
where the beginning was
so I can lay flowers there.
no grief so small no grief so small no grief so small.
las vegas nevada 2019
for Byron Lee Williams
how much radiation is proof
we are not attracted by our lives?
the weight of a butterfly
700 milligrams of mass.
- the delicate lattice work of lungs
inside a ribcage
exist in breath; bones inhale
and exhale throughout the body.
the skull at the fontanelle shifts in use,
the bones of the foot
as they hop, push, land, and fall.
when exactly does the conversion begin?
Byron Lee Williams had two children,
a daughter and a step-son.
black children gold like paper.
he was family before
his conversion to suspect.
- each delicate art
dying as the sun rose,
cameras turned off in the dark.
a hand panting into the muscles of this back,
pressing into these ribs,
collapsing each lung.
how to handle that radiating body heat,
that valence of brimming adrenaline
aimed at a man choking in the dust?
the weight of two uniformed men
converted into seven officers
on the scene.
turn their remains into bullets
swallowed in the breeze.
- a voice left only
as a recording.
Teri Vela (she/her) is a latinx poet, witch, member of the legal community, and new mother, born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada (Southern Paiute traditional lands). Her publications include poetry in Witch Craft Magazine, Clark: Poetry from Clark County, Nevada, and a nonfiction essay for the anthology I Wrote it Anyway. She is an editorial resident for The Seventh Wave Magazine, with publications forthcoming. Her poetry explores the politics of witness, motherhood, mental health, grief, and everyday joy in the mojave desert.