Leslie Contreras Schwartz

AUDRE LORDE QUESTIONS ME, OR HOW TO BE A NOBODY, A LOSER, A ZERO
I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too? —
Emily Dickinson
 

 

I do not have the words
To say I exist
If I don’t, to some,
Not in the way that matters
Which matters in the same way that

Some girl finds herself
Sitting nude in school parking lot
An alley behind a factory or a darkened
Street by a bayou and forgot how
She forgot she was cold and naked
Forgot she was 15 but remembered
The years 4 and 5 and 6

Its brilliant streetlight of years
When he brings back her
Clothes and turns

On the days my leg, legs, feet, drag
Behind me. These are not the only days
My body feels the weight
Of Brock Turners behind a dumpster.

I am nobody
If not the black men
Whispering I can’t breathe
If I’ve heard and wake up the next day
Like I didn’t
Like the bent-over brown bodies in
The country’s long armed fields
As they inhale pesticides
That smells of loneliness and
Murder and if they keep smelling it
They believe it’s the scent of their mother’s warm bosom
That country of warmth

O, to climb into that—
The inside of a hotel room
Or a massage parlor or a cantina
Or a unairconditioned kitchen
Or a back room in that house
Or their parents’ room or a sister or
Brother’s room
Where money changes hands over
Their body

I am not them
But some other nobody
And when I bore this nobody in
This body it didn’t promise to disappear
Later—How do I say?

I don’t have the words
To even whisper or write or think
What it’s like to be someone’s bodily and
Still-living Abortion

America’s fetus
The one they’d rather not bury
Since the soil costs money to shovel

Always the cost of labor

And the ones that did
The hangings, they left the bodies
Under trees’ boughs swinging

Now they hang us
Within ourselves,
So only we can see

Where I, in turn,
Hear them like leaden bells
In my chest, the thud of
Limb against limb

This music is mine
And I have turned it
Into a drum

What tyrannies meant to force,
Choke, smother,
Sear my body
I will finish myself, taste
Its sharp purple pain,
Its throb of a pistol

Whip. As long as I feel
What you do to me,
I know I am still
Alive.

And the others?
This is where
We differ. Those
Are my bodies too

Because once I
Was the girl sitting in the alley
So if it is possible then why not
Me when I see them,
Sisters, brothers,
Myselfs, a bunch of nobodies
Who forgot how they got
Left on America’s side road.

All these no bodied nobodies.
I wave to you from the bottom
Of my chest

Where our nobodies all hang
And thump their inglorious
God-given body song.

 


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