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Santa Monica, open wound

Poetry & Prose | October 10, 2017

The air was one heavy sigh,

pleased, floral, musical breath. Clingy,

before that would’ve bothered me.

I’m wearing my eighth grade formal dress,

have discovered my body

populates it in entirely

new ways. I do not feel

bashful. I feel like I’ve emerged

from the other side of a war

breathless battered blood-smeared stunned

stunning gasping stained. Eyes look

different on the other side of a war. I look at myself

like a dare (I’ve never

dared before). My mother recognizes this

gaze, this calls for a celebration.

Santa Monica’s choir sings for us, down

the elevator, out into the street. The torches spit

flames, this calls for a sacrifice.

I look to her expectantly, but she quells

their eager flares with a glance, not yet.

Everything aglow in

pink neon and orange

trumpet honeysuckle, the men

pass by as we cross the street

like they have my whole life, but this time

they choose me instead. I don’t

know if she’s nervous or proud,

if I’m nervous or proud.

Her hand squeezes mine

deliberately, with saccharine.

At the restaurant we’re seated

by the window. Santa Monica,

open wound, spitting

 

and phosphorescent. Santa Monica,

florid whisperer. She orders a grey goose

martini with three olives, make it

very dirty (it will be

years before I suggest filthy

instead, she’ll love it). She orders

a dozen oysters on the half shell. I sip

the very dirty martini to try, and pretend to ignore

the oysters for as long as I can. I had always refused,

but I knew there’d be none of that

tonight. So she showed me how,

put the ancient thing

to the bloom of her lips, gently,

gently. Then I watched as she slurped

it down whole,

mercilessly, monstrously,

a wolf, a wolf, a wolf, slurped

its guts and veins and

vim, left a pool of primordial

plasma then slurped that too,

slurped its prismatic

pearl, slurped the shell,

the world’s oldest

fossil, and I watched it move

down her throat and disappear

forever. I knew it was my turn,

so I took it. Her hand let go of mine

deliberately, with strychnine.

I moved the next one to my mouth

carefully, like it held the last drops

of water in the desert. I cradled

and nursed it. I baptized

my lips in its vitreous

ooze and my lips were reborn. I felt

myself change. I felt myself named. I felt

myself found. I felt my pupils

turn pinprick in focus, and I swallowed

 

and swallowed and swallowed and

I don’t know how long it took to swallow

it all but I did. And when it was all gone,

the night humming an indigo conclusion,

I felt it inside of me, and it was a tiny, futile thing.

She gave me another and I finished in seconds,

another and another and another until the

platter was left lonely silver, licked bone-

clean while she ordered more.

I hadn’t known I was so hungry.