Body as Updated Return Address
I am nothing but wires, stinging
needles in floors and walls
learning to clean new surfaces, to breathe new dust.
I say this like I’ve cleaned lately, which I haven’t.
My father would die if he saw the anthills of scatter in my carpets.
When we were young we’d clean in shifts:
dust mop, sweep, vacuum, mop
I don’t own a vacuum in this hole of branding heat,
the kind of heat I can’t prepare for the way I prepare
for weekly television shows
or seasonal depression—if there is any preparation more
deadly than yearly medication forecast.
I always said I’d move north to ice storms and lobster rolls,
to a place with Chinese food delivery and man-made parks.
The Earth does not care for itself as municipality does,
voting on its expansions, trimming its edges.
A suitcase doesn’t roll as smooth in the heat
of a southern flashflood. My students tell me the
tornado siren rings every Wednesday at noon,
and this week I hope it crashes through and takes me with it.
How do I tell you living is too hard for me?
I could say there is a lump in my breast the size of a clementine;
the doctor says to check back in a few weeks.
I say this like I know anything about health, which I don’t.
I know my knees whine in the fall when it rains
and that this fall’s been so wet-hot they’ve been singing
since August. There is no mountain breath here,
no hunt for crowning trees, no sirens of birdtrails.
There is a clock that bells every half hour
that can only be heard intentionally,
and I hear it every time.
I pretend it’s all burned down, my hometown,
its teeth on the lips of flushed mountains,
My ailing family lost to a rush of time,
a rush of activity, of weather, of words
too big to understand swallowing
the things I want for, the faces I wake for.
This is to say I know it will always be there,
but there isn’t set clothing to wear here,
not one face to see a reflection in.
I dream I’m in my childhood bedroom
and outside there is nothing,
it’s just me, just this body,
lumpy and aching.
What does it look like to wear
many worlds on one’s shoulders?
I know one thing for certain:
it’s too hot to wear them as a scarf.
Jennie Frost is a queer, non-binary poet from Maryville, TN. They are an MFA candidate at the University of Mississippi. Their poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Border Crossing, Kudzu, Indicia, Stirring, and more. They are a dedicated member of the LGBTQ+ community and a human rights activist focusing on sexual assault prevention. Their poetry ranges from general discomfort to slutty/sad.