TELL MY MOTHER I NEED A NEW NAME
Once, she told me that I came gliding in like a summoned spirit from the pit of prophecy, black-eyed, skin the color of burning bark, born to the depth of winter, at the dying of the light, born to the in-between, part exit and part entrance, pain wider than the hollow moon, breath as warm as fury, blood rich with poison.
She called me half-dead.
That’s the miracle, she said.
I’m aware I’m a palimpsest; destruction is tethered to my paltry DNA.
She wants solid print to skim over but I have only traces.
Once I was whole and perfect, entirely tangible and real. Now I’m a mix of rumor and myth, practically unseen. Most of me has been redacted. And I can’t pronounce what was lost. But I feel the emptiness between things, between then and now, between her and I.
I reach for something in her silence and her silence reaches back.
I know she wants to hear a story made up of graceful curves and smooth transitions but I can’t do tidy storytelling with so many potholes wrecking my body.
I have only the name my rejection has given me and when the vowels of my name come crawling out of her mouth, I want to flinch. I remember the first time I picked up a pair of scissors and decided to cut myself free. I remember the first time I tried to lay down inside a new pronoun.
I never felt that stark line of liberation press so close to my throat.
Jaisha Jansena is a writer, multimedia artist, and Academy of American Poets college prize-winner from Cincinnati, Ohio. Find their work in Luna Luna Magazine, Burning House Press, and at jaishajansena.com.