Our Word :: Week 1 Day 5 :: Place {Rebellion} {Who We Are Where} {Love Letter To Home}

by Cassie

I.

I woke up thinking of my father, of all the empty vodka bottles we found when we cleaned out his trailer, the way we cracked his laptop password and read a dozen conversations with people we didn’t know, hungry to know who he was as a human, without being weighed down by trying to be somebody’s father, somebody’s son. I punched the wall beside someone’s face once when they told me I was acting like my dad — I’d been rebelling against the idea of his DNA defining me since I was fifteen and couldn’t stand that someone might see him in me — and I walked away from men who reminded me of him. Stormwalker. Wakinyan. Talking to thunder, seeking comfort in the bare bodies of madwomen, connection in the bones of improbable ancestors. Crazy-making worm-eating whirlwind of stale smoke and Old Spice, killing himself slowly for so long and with such silent screaming, and I could almost convince myself I wasn’t surprised by my sudden status as half-orphan, but then I fell down on his dead totem pole face and all I could do was fiercely whisper I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so sorry I didn’t hate you I did love you I’m so sorry and surprise was the only taste in a mouth that kissed the cold brow of a man I would never understand.

II.

I love my naked body, unencumbered, nothing digging in or sticking out, just skin and air and muscle and movement. In the dark, in the mirror, in the shower with hot water laying loving hands all over me. There is nothing vulnerable in it — I feel like I’ve been cast in clay, in bronze, a heavy thing to sit on hearths, to be worshiped on altars. Clothing adds complications, unnecessary layers — do I look like a mom in this dress? Are my jeans sliding off my ass again? How much of me is hanging over the waistband of this? — but naked we are all only human. There’s a humble power in the way skin stretches over bones, this birthright of beauty that belongs to every one of us, this painfully thin barrier between our insides and the whole world, these hips and the babies carried upon them, these feet that have touched holy ground right outside the front door. Some Celtic warriors would shed their clothes before battle, would run down their enemies on the battlefield with painted faces and broadswords swinging and naked bodies bound by nothing but nervous sweat drying on the wind — I lay my hands on a belly that twice held life, soft breasts that sustained it, shoulders that carry the stories of daughters and mothers and magic-makers, knees that have known supplication, and I think if I went into battle, I would fight with bare skin and bare hands, and I would emerge a hero.

III.

Home: where my grandma threw back the curtains and fed us french toast with powdered sugar for breakfast in bed. The porch swing I stayed out too late on, fifty-two mosquito bites but I couldn’t stop staring at the way his hand looked on my knee in the filtered light of a quarter moon coming down through the tangle of spanish moss in the trees. Breathing into a brown paper bag and my mom’s hands were cool like marble. Kissing James Ward in the back room of the Skate ‘N’ Space, the first time, a purple shirt, soft lips so different from the back of my hand. Chlorine green hair, seeing which one of us could spit watermelon seeds the farthest, catching fireflies and feeling their frantic feet seeking an escape from my cupped palms. Fingers like a solar system under a summer dress, his or mine, or both, slick with sweat and exhaling whole worlds into the gentle shell of his ear on one whispered yessssss. Lying on a bed criss-crossed with early morning sunlight, spilling secrets to my mom, sweet acceptance in soft tones. My hands full of babies taking their very first breaths, barely crossed over, so new that it is a kick in the solar plexus, all that potential and responsibility and the way it’s like dying and being resurrected every time, like Lazarus, like Jesus, and you would let yourself be crucified a hundred times over for that tiny heart beating outside your body for the first time. Home: the places you feel most alive, those moments you can reconcile your extreme insignificance with your immense importance and shake with the enormity of your existence.

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