Sunday, April 11, 2021

‘Girlhood,’ by Melissa Fosos: An excerpt

10. For the first time, you look away when your lover sees the needle in the coil of your arm. Your body is sweaty and ties your throat. You choose it – this yellow boy, this new hole, this filler, this empty, this orphan – and then it chooses you.

11. Your father once gave you a book with a picture of lumps, which had a smooth length of rope around the spine. Half hitch, figure eight, clove hitch, bowline, anchor bend, slip not. The only one you remember the first time is a square knot when you tie two wrists together, but it’s the only one you need the first time someone pays to tie your wrist. Is, he does not know from right to left, from left to right. Only a better bow, rabbit in the hole, but did not disappear. Each time, you see far-flung veins, pink thighs, wax stars sealing their dark parts. They press their fingers into your mouth and tug until the beads come out of your body with sweat and beads around your throat. You choose them, and then they choose you.

12. Like you, that part is a wild, part vessel. Nights, he tucks into your curve, sings a rip-off across your pillow. In your sleep you burn, a glowing ember, soaking the sheet. You sticky-chested, heart a drum, and hear him cry. You grab his smooth claws. Like you, he is a fear of his own kind and happens to his teeth. You throw yourself into his quarrel – gnashing of teeth, kneeling, and you never make a sound, allowing yourself only this. Next, you touch each hand with trembling hands, attracting the constellation of this animal: Sirius, Dog Star, Polaris, and you Orion with bloody hands. You take the gravel out of your knees, every time you close your hand, but that makes you a hunter.

13. The year your father left the port for the last time, you take out the needle. Your body is sweaty and ties your throat. In sleep, you burn, and wet the tremors. Remember this supernova, you are a black hole, you are cosmic shards, your black matter is coming out. When it lifts, you peel pink, the bright light shines, but you see everything in it.

14. You don’t choose her, but she looks for you, smooth sharp, and walks away from you. In love, your hair and nails become bone-shiny, wax-white, needle-thin, then tear and fall. you run. Marked thing, you run until your knee throb, the tenels loose, opening the bowl of the skull. You are instigating yourself against him. You wear yourself away. Hot embers in his hands, you glow. At night, she touches every opening, pulling the constellation of your burning body, and when you release her, it eventually cools down.

15. This time, you choose the needle and the hand that holds it. You want to remember the crook of your shoulder, hip, your hand. You engraved yourself in the paper. These are not secrets, but they keep. You bare these new marks and your father says nothing, but he sees you. You see, too, and in the end, you both see it. Cephas and Andromeda, Mizar and Alcor, Zeus and Athena, you are binary creatures, you Star and Sextant, Navigator and Horizon. You form the constellation of your history, connecting the points of your heavenly body. This is your celestial heart. You choose it, and it chooses you.

[ Return to the review of “Girlhood.” ]

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