Here you can find my writing that has been featured in various publications. Unless noted by the need for a subscription, the associated image will allow you to read my piece on the publisher’s page. Take the time to explore all these wonderful journals and magazines have to offer.
Standing in the James River
Nimrod International Journal
Kentucky Coal Mines
Nerve Leak’s Snow / Sun / Words
Quail Bell Magazine
Quail Bell Magazine
Poor Student Apologies
Quail Bell Magazine
Tales of Animal Behavior
Trouble Come Home
Walking while Female at One A.M.
I walk down Harrison Street, heading home from Brandon’s house. He told me to be careful because I’m alone. I shove my hands in my pockets as I cross over Grove, right by that small triangle park. I step up on to the curb and let my footfalls hit their rhythm. It’s not as if I expect Brandon to walk me home or anything. I always make it there but some small Southern part of me wishes he would at least offer. To be polite and all.
I remove my hands from my pockets. My boot heels click against the concrete, echoing slightly on the loose sections of the sidewalk. I don’t have to pay much attention to the uneven patches any more. They’ve been like this for years. The city is slow to fix parts of town unfrequented by working professionals or tourists.
Mom and Dad always say that walking alone at night is like painting a big red target on the back of my dress. I’ll never tell them that I drag out the paint all the time. I’m surprised I haven’t stained all my clothes. But it’s just a few blocks, nothing really, ten minutes, fifteen at most. If I told them, they’d worry constantly about the men lurking in bushes to ambush me. They think all the shady guys are stalking pretty young girls like me.
I glance behind me. It’s empty except for a crumpled Natural Light can and some cigarette butts. I don’t expect anyone to follow me, but I always check. I keep my head up and listen. I always scan streets and alleys before crossing them. Not intensively– just a flick of my eyes to see what little I can of what lies in the darkness. I keep my pace brisk, but not frantic, to make it clear I have somewhere to be just as I was taught.
A man comes down the sidewalk heading my direction. I record his features: round face, small eyes, pointed nose. His shoulders are thin in his grey hoodie. He’s a bit taller than me but small for a man. I can take him if I have to. I totally could. I square my chin, prepared to look him in the eye, let him know I’m not scared of him, but he passes without glancing my way. I exhale and turn left on Franklin, just three blocks to go.
Two people stand in my path about a block down, leaning close in discussion. A short, dark-haired girl, no more than twenty years old, is talking and waving her hands. They flutter like birds around the boy’s face. He looks about the same age but is a head taller than her. His hands at his sides, his shoulders set in tight right angles. They’re arguing.
I could cross the street to avoid them, but I live on this side. If I cross it now, it would only draw their attention to me. People are always like this in the city, doing private stuff in public. And I can pass them without alerting their attention. It’s too late to move to the other side anyway. The girl raises her voice and pushes on the boy’s shoulder with the flat of her hand, causing him to bobb slightly. His curly hair bounces with the impacts.
“Fuck. You.” She beats his chest with the side of her fist, punctuating each word with a hollow thud. “Fuck. You. Fuck. You fuck you. Fuck youfuckyoufuckyou!”
He absorbs the blows in silence, his body flinching at her touch. Then he grabs her thin wrists but does not push her away. He holds her there, his arms still bent. She struggles half-heartedly but not painfully.
“Stop. You’re always like this when you drink,” he says, “I didn’t do anything.”
“Yes you did. Yes you did!”
They sense my presence when I am a few yards away. The girl glances at me briefly, but does not stop wriggling or cursing the boy. The scent of beer wafts from their mouths but their speech is not slurred.
The girl’s voice grows louder. “You worthless motherfucker, you can’t do anything right.”
He releases a wavering sigh. “Please.”
“Cocksucker. Deadbeat motherfucker. You can’t do anything right!” Her laughter sounds like balloons popping. “Nothing!”
His resigned face says he’s heard these words before. He stares at his shoes and loosens his grip. The boy turns as the girl wrenches her wrists free.
“I’m sorry,” he says to me,“I’m so sorry.”
I want to tell him that I’m sorry too. I’m sorry for both of them. I’m sorry I saw anything. I don’t know what I can do. She won’t hurt him, she won’t, not really. She isn’t strong. The cops won’t care. They’ll just say it’s a private matter.
I’ve only got a second as I pass, and I don’t know what to say. He’s looking at me. He’s waiting for a response.
I shrug, palms facing up as if the right words could just fall into them, and pick up my pace until I get home.
Originally published in Amendment 2014
Twenty years ago, when the doctor cut, cut, cut me from my mother, he held crying strawberry-cream caked me at arms length and said to my father, “Tell her what you’ve got.” Father creased his brow, eyed the fresh-cut umbilical chord, blubbered to my mother: “It’s a boy. I know we hoped for a girl, but he’s beautiful, beautiful…” The doctor roared: “Look again, Dad!” My parents wept in joyful harmony with my cries of cold confusion– I was hungry for breast milk– But you’d think daddy never seen a vulva before!
Oh, does that make you uncomfortable? When I say vulva, vagina, clitoris, uterus, do bugs scurry up your spine? Are you scared of me because I’m proud of mine? Well, get over it– this is my body– I’ll use the words I choose, words that fit like the sweater Grammy knit. Just try to pull out those stitches, shrink the seams. You can’t. And if you try to wash my mouth out with soap, I’ll stare you down and spit the suds in your eyes.
Since you’ve decided to dissect my words like the Jane Does chilling in line for the crematorium, I’ll tell you, time is precious, let’s save a few seconds, I am a masochistic poly-picto-tricho-dendro-stigmato-sapiosexual human, with an unquenchable quest for complete equality, and a stubborn search for a room of my own– lockable preferably– I am a sister, not bound by blood but by love, and I am a boat slicing through dangerous seas, at my back the gale force of three centuries of formidable foremothers who took up arms against their oppressors with the same limbs that lifted little ones.
Don’t give me that look, the up-down-nose-wrinkle-head-tilt as you slide away to say: “So, you’re one of those… feminists…” The label sticks to your tongue as you look at me like I’m an apricot rotting at the back of your fridge, forgotten. “Oh I see…” Yeah, you do see. Nobody writes this body but me.
And excuse me if my verbosity edges toward pomposity– modesty is not my strength and I’ve never known when to shut up– but go ahead, call me crazy. If sanity is subservience I want no part of it. Yes, I am insane to fight for the same rights every man is born into, for wanting to own my body and be judged by the depth of my character not the size of my cups, the width of my hips. I dream of a world where people understand that having a vagina doesn’t mean I need a dick in it or a baby out of it, a world where women walk down the street at night, unbothered by all the tiny noises that punctuate the darkness. Label me a madwoman, lock me in your attic– do it– I’ll rattle your walls, shake your floorboards with the power MY VOICE.
And yes, I am no saint, I admit it, I have been the oppressor, seen a person from afar and pondered a binary brand, judged and burned flesh with my gaze while reaping the benefits of my privilege, I have danced in concert with all the other colonials. Of this I am ashamed.
But this not the stomach twisting guilt that compels me to my room to cry. No. This disgrace fuses with my fire for justice, creating an energy known only at the center of stars, propelling me to the streets, classrooms, bedrooms, boardrooms, screaming: “Let us erase these conventions, these tortures with the faces of tradition, explode the canon with a BOOOOM! and a swwwwffffissssshhhh! Take my hand, together we will fight for the impossible dream!” … And when those thoughts, those brainwashed unnatural, colonial, trifling transplants, flit through my head, threatening to take root, I have to catch them, snatch them, hurl them to the floor with the force to crash through the foundation of this country, to crush the bedrock of the master’s house. Chip away at his concrete bit by bit by bit.
No, No. I won’t shut up, won’t go back down, won’t go back to the kitchen or the closet or the nursery. Know what I will do? SPEAK LOUDER, because I don’t think you can hear me, I will stand up behind every microphone, plant myself in front of every camera, every courthouse and clinic and capital building, because America, we need to talk.
Originally published in Amendment 2013