For Arati, who should never be afraid
I am a lion, you listen here. I am a lounger, a sunner,
I am a beast-thing with mouth and teeth. I spread wide, hips
and elbows loose and propped and open and easy. I spread
and own this space and I am not afraid.
I am loud and I rip and I shred, I am Gorgon, I am Harpy,
I am snarling and unnamed and undreamed. You listen here,
I am languid, breast unruly and lungs out, open, ready, sternum
untight. I spread wide, scent and slit and sweat and sex, I am not
afraid. I am a goddamn moon, round and glowing
or a sun, The Sun, I am the weight that pulls gravity, you
listen here. I am a stunner. I take up space, I take up space, I
take and I am not afraid. You listen here, I am an ocean,
I am the Atlantic, I carve land and birth islands and
float ships and I drown men and I drown women and
I drown you, too. I am not afraid, you listen
here. I will not be smaller and smaller and smaller. I will not
be small. I cannot be contained, I am forest. I am unsafe
for you, you listen here. I am a black hole and I eat and eat
and eat, I crunch light in my teeth and exhale darkness
and I grow and I am not afraid. My mark
is strong. I spread wide.
You listen here, I will not be crossed
and folded. I will not be shaped to suit the size
of a thing, not a house, not a rule, not a cupboard, not
a drawer, not a form, ideal. I will
not dainty to fit. I will not meek for you.
I will not afraid.
LEIGH CAMACHO ROURKS is a Cuban-American author from South Louisiana, who is an Assistant Professor of English and Humanities at Beacon College in Central Florida. Her debut story collection, Moon Trees and Other Orphans, won the St. Lawrence Book Award. She is also the recipient of the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award and the Robert Watson Literary Review Prize, and she is, most recently, the third-place winner of the 2021 CRAFT First Chapters Contest. Her fiction, poems, and essays have appeared in a number of journals, including TriQuarterly, Rust + Moth, and Greensboro Review.
image: Kevin Sampsell is the publisher of Future Tense Books in Portland, Oregon. He’s also the co-curator and founder of Sharp Hands Gallery, an online showcase for international collage art. His book of collages and poems, I Made an Accident, will be published by Clash Books in 2022.