rams sits in a butterfly position on a mat on the floor her eyes follow the beige grout between the travertine tiles as she breaths in and out the grout becomes a series of paths and ram tries to figure out where they are leading her, she twitches her fingers, they are tiny oars and the grout is a stream and she could be free if she just keeps paddling
* * * * * *
THE CHORUS says let’s continue, ram. tell us, did he bend your reflection?
yes, sometimes i see ram but sometimes i see what’s left of a woman when she gives too much to man, sometimes i see ramming sometimes i am rammed, sometimes i wonder about the different rams i see, i wonder if they are all actually me or if i am being pulled apart into two rams, can two rams be one me?
THE CHORUS calms it is okay to be confused.
did he make you forget your own name, too?
my mother gave me my name taught me my name ram swallow the helicopter ram sleep tight ram don’t let the bed bugs bite ram this world is harsh ram everything you can Ram Ram Ram do you understand? it’d be very hard to make one forget their own name ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram
THE CHORUS asks but did he? did he make you forget Ram?
AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I RAM AM I
THE CHORUS says in many cultures horses are worshipped as gods. and in many cultures, men think they are gods. did the horse man convince you he was your god, Ram?
when i was young i used to believe in god that was another thing my mother taught me to get on my knees and say oh lord plz forgive me, i was born a woman, forgive me, i loved a man, forgive me, i cried, forgive me, i let myself be rammed, forgive me, i became ram, forgive me and baptize my horns for they have sinned too and all i want is for them to be shiny and gold and new.
* * * * * *
ram pauses and continues to paddle through the groutstream. she gets caught in a rut, breaths in and out as memories eat through her tough ram bones like a blight spreading through her body but she will not be overcome she will not lose her color she refuses to be another woman swept under the water row row row your boat gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream
* * * * * *
so did horse convince me he was a god? yes
but then i learned how to ram and horse god was no more now i only worship me and i ask me what is life what is it for and me replies that life is a series of locked and unlocked doors which bloom into roses & when the petals fall off the sea lies still, its water bleached white by the bones of other women, women who won’t be contained anymore bc that’s not the way out
[ram recovering ii]
THE CHORUS asks why do you deny yourself heaven? do you believe in heaven, Ram?
if heaven exists then it is a field of orgasms if heaven exists then when i get there i will be a golden-scaled dragon i will spread my wings and breath in the smoke of all the men i’ve burnt ashes to ashes, dust to being a woman who learnt how to ram how to tame horses how to feed them apples from the palm of my hand
if heaven exists then horse probably isn’t there because there are trees in the desert since he moved out, it’s like a tragedy, exactly like a greek tragedy, trees growing out of male depravity, trees growing and growing and scoffing at gravity with their tree noses and faces and gasoline puddle eyes
THE CHORUS wonders then do you consider yourself undeserving, Ram?
i consider myself clear and bright to perfection
a ghost woman ramming through a series of structural mazes
supple-necked w sea-dark hair covered in sheep’s skin
a torrential cloudburst capable of taking a horse
mounting it drowning it
a mouth portal to another land home only to other rams
but i do not consider myself undeserving anymore
THE CHORUS asks are you a solider, Ram?
i used to be a solider but not anymore now i am just a woman asking herself what is life, what is it for? i walk i talk i shop i sneeze i fuck i eat i dream i bleat i sleep i cry i heal i ram i am like a shark w feet and much less fins trying to figure out why i’ve been living in the walls trying to begin again, learning to crawl to wear my skin w grace to erase my bones and sand away
the names threaded into them
THE CHORUS asks then are you free?
sometimes i talk to my demons, they tell me you think you know who you are and what’s to come but you have no idea you haven’t even begun i say i don’t want to sleep on a bed of bones i don’t want to be cloud hollow i say i want to eat
my demons, chew them up & spit them out
THE CHORUS whispers then why are you afraid of love, Ram?
because sorrow smells like the memories you have during long winter hours of bees sucking honey from flowers and it is natural to be afraid of having sorrow. my mother told me women love differently she said women must be holy be tender she said women must surrender to man love and blood dowries said don’t worry you’ll never lose your kind of soul it wasn’t borrowed, it wasn’t used
[ram recovering iii]
THE CHORUS asks do you feel empty, Ram?
the thing about feeling empty is that sometimes it makes you feel full i feel full of ghosts and stars and bones and blood of horse meat and flower buds
i get so full i gag myself and throw up star chunks i squeeze my ribs until they splinter into me i lay on my floor until i morph into it i pull my hair until my horns are exposed rip my skin to see if it is actually holding anything together or if it is just a bag for my woolcovered bones
momma said only god can make your skin feel empty but i think love can barren you too
when i feel most empty i straddle the air, pretend i am still
riding my horse round and round up and down, my horse is the prettiest horse
on this merry-go-round and round we weave in and out of wind and it feels as if horse is still the place my heart begins
when i feel most empty i straddle the air, pretend i am still
riding my horse into a field of flowers wildflowers that bloom
on my skin until the scent of horse play swallows me up
i am the woman who smells the horses back to life
i am the woman who screams herself hoarse horse hoarse horse hoarse
THE CHORUS wonders can your body be put back together, Ram?
ram skin is a paradox
feels flat pink honey sweet like the body of a girl
a body girled then ungirled a body that wants to swirl twirl even if it creaks ghost weeps even if it so opaque that there is no moon inside of it no moon only layers of ram skin no moon only blackness no moon only bone-shaped sadness that makes a bed in my ear, says your ram body has nothing left to fear fill your head with jasmine if you want to disappear
Ram fills head w jasmine, says i want to disappear because i think i’ll die in here
because when i dream about putting ram body back together, dream body crawls on floor bites its hands and hair has thirsty skin, skin full of air skin that isn’t excited anymore skin that still remembers the smell of horse skin that bleeds ram again and again skin that doesn’t know how to begin no more distortion no more moons no more weaving hair in looms no more i think i can i think i can ram because Ram can’t ram can’t Ram can’t ram anymore ram body is lead in its core, lead rolling out to sea where horse body is decaying into sea waves
Ram stands on shoreline sews herself into its tide
reaches up, grabs the sun by its inkiness
digs white moons of her fingernails deep into sun surface
takes a dagger of sunlight
to stab her rammed heart with
says i am done with love and black art
says will my voice sound under the waves
says sea water, fill up my heart cave
says ram body will bloat then float then sink
says i am past saturation dead to myself
says here’s to my health
THE CHORUS begs but Ram, do not misread the stars
ram hold sun dagger in handhoof, contemplating
Ari K. Castañeda is a poet and MFA candidate at the University of Notre Dame, where she also teaches creative writing. Her thesis project, RAM, is a feminist yawp that experiments with erasure of Vergil’s Aeneid. In her spare time, Kelsey enjoys Buffy the Vampire Slayer and being a cat mom to Willow and Cordelia. Her work can be found in glitterMOB.