Excerpts from “Flesh Graphs” by Brynne Rebele-Henry


30. I don’t know what to wear, so I tie sage around my left ankle, twists of garlic in my hair. I want to be Italian and edible. I add rosemary, thyme. Frying oils.

31. I brush my hair until it crackles onto the linoleum.

32. She could feel the remains of him seeping out of her, radiation, she can feel her back beneath the mattress and it reminds her of Stonehenge. Reminds her of the tea she’s left on her counter, steeping, the rim of black on the cup will be appearing around now.

33. He sprays the cologne on his face. Diffusion.

34. I wondered at the way her hair fell down in a clean black train, the tracks left on her face from yesterday’s binder. I worry that she doesn’t know my name or face, that she won’t recognize, still dawning over her new hips and breasts. I say my name to the sound her arms make against the subway rails: Benji.

35. The sad space girl Friday, the pseudo lesbian haircuts that sports moms flip backwards, too long nails though, Cheryl says, their mouths all dry and lipstick-chapsticked duo. Not enough velour, says I, with my chewed down wool, with my menthol smelling pockets, with my cuticles and nails so shot my fingers nudge through them.

36. My virginity gone to a buck-toothed rabbit boy in a truck with a sleeping bag in the back and a window broke from holes torn in it by angry women who want to be girls, he says. It didn’t feel like much but friction and after my thighs were rivers that blood made banks on. Next morning and bruise made sky from the seatbelt buckle.

37. Her body washes in, a tangle of seaweed and her grandmother’s fake sapphires. He is disappointed about the way her body is shaped. “I thought she was a whale.” We watch her arching her back, her eyes sand-coated magnifying glasses. Ambulances never occur to us, we say later, when the light is a funeral home disco in our un-made-up faces. We just wanted to see some mating whales, we say.

38. I lick the skin between her fingers.

39. His skin is a weathered hollow of chemo, the spaces where he is deflating. We don’t say anything about the liver spots, or the drowned white of his tremors. We just place toast inside our lips.

40. My girl’s hair is dead, and her lips are a fine yellow. Chapped nipples that I put in her throat, charred.

41. His belly falls over his belt.

42. My mother is disappearing.

43. He pushes his thumb down Mary Anne’s throat and says of it “Righteous.”

44. I slash the skin clean off my finger, plump like fruit I haven’t yet tasted. I put the tip of what’s left of my finger on a plate. Add lime, salt, pepper.

45. She brushes her oil-slick hair, polluted clumps, their follicles hail against the floor.

46. He says he’s just kissing invisible boys.

47. We exist in a state of vagrance, our skin worn colorless by trains and water and rails that don’t sit quite right on highways we don’t know the names of. Our mouths are the same texture, our eyes a slash of sand and cornea and no paydays.

48. He’s all blues baby daddy, cat on a hot tin roof, double lashes. He wants it all deep fried, and butter smothered with dirty sugar and maraschino cherries. His belt doesn’t fit right and he punches extra holes into the thick skin of it with his rusty bottle opener.

49. The conception was an exorcism and after we burned sage, I put my thighs over my head and chanted.

50. Lemons remind her too much of the bruises.

51. He slicks the eggs into his mouth.

52. The baby falls out every time she opens her legs, she tries to push him back in, this slippery disappearing child, she tries tight jeans, lying down until her spine makes railroads in the mattress. She calls for doctors, firemen, medicine witches, but she can’t find a phone, she tries to call them on rotten fruits, all that’s left in her cupboard.

53. I bite her lips, bright and red wax coated.

54. I’m shaking my hips and they all say of it: “That motherfucker’s Beyoncé.” They want to buy me shots, and I’m all “get in line bitches,” in my leather man-thong.

55. My belly’s bigger than my arms now, we run out of water five moons ago, Momma don’t talk anymore, and Daddy’s head went boom! when they come in with their sharp dust and guns, and all the animals want to eat me, says the leader, and our skin is falling off our bones, meaty no more.

56. We walked to the mall, stroked our fingers over things we couldn’t/can’t/ won’t/afford. After, he pulled me against his chest and bit my neck. Then he touched his middle finger against the space between my eyebrows, then drew a cross over my mouth and nose. Then he bowed and skipped away.

57. He pressed against her, concrete floor, a gun, maybe a knife, she doesn’t remember. Ten months later and she’s still bleeding. But they don’t say rape or victim, instead their mouths form: antibiotics, tea, sympathy casseroles.

Brynne Rebele-Henry’s poetry, fiction, criticism, and visual art have appeared or are forthcoming in The Volta, Revolver, PANK, Adroit, Souvenir, Ping Pong, and other magazines. She is assistant editor of Verse. Her work stems from being a young lesbian/feminist in a culture that simultaneously fears and obsesses over women’s bodies.

Image: “Into the Dark” by Victoria Johnston

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