Rachel Ann Girty is a writer and classical singer based in Chicago. Her poetry and fiction have recently appeared in The Briar Cliff Review, Imagine This! An Artprize Anthology, Perfume River Poetry Review, and Body Parts Magazine, and her poetry will soon appear in The Fem. A graduate of Northwestern University, she is the 2016 winner of the Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award and an awardee of an Academy of American Poets prize. She was born and raised in Michigan.
August 10, 2016
being thirteen and seeing
there were places on the body
that were meat but everyone
was afraid to call them meat
and other places wracked
with longing for motion and feeling
like I was the connective tissue
in between. ready to be sliced.
being thirteen and hearing
catechists avoid the first person
like an oracle like a medical journal
like ecclesiastes. knowing a soul
was only a misconstruance.
not having read Faulkner but
having heard what he said
about purity or what he said
one character said about purity
in a book that was just a furious
tangle of sounds to someone
who was only thirteen. thirteen
and for four years I'd known how
to shift my weight in my chair at school,
both to push against the pain
and to keep from bleeding through.
not being able to swallow a tablet
of motrin yet. chewing it, tasting it
instead. feeling the meat of my esophagus
try to reject it. not rejecting it.
being thirteen and waking up
twelve mornings a month with blood
under my nails and scrubbing it out
as soon as I could. letting shame
wrench itself into my abdomen.
thinking I didn't deserve that motrin.
because of where my fingers went
at night. because I couldn't control
their ache for warmth, or wouldn't.
then the singleness of pain. getting lost
in its purity. letting it swim through
me as I learned to swim through too.
In The Sound and the Fury, Mr. Compson tells his son, "Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature." I heard this quote long before I read the book, and I took it way out of context. Still, I wonder whether there's such a thing as additive purity, whether — just for a moment— an influx of something into the body, something like pain or lust or shame, can be all-consuming and unadulterated.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published weekly by Glass Poetry Press.
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