By Emily Murman
In the beginning, there is the kick, red as the strain of swine shrieking in the butcher’s queue. Dull and aching as the first cramps of young womanhood, or the pinches in my ribs when you look out the window to the Alps and see where snow blackens, where lightning blanches trees bone-white. I asked you why your studies beckon you so. How I lose you for days within the walls of our shared home. It is beyond your scope, you told me, beyond the scope of any woman. I listened to you say this, I did not tell you no, that while wild, nature winds my cycle as regular as a Swiss clock.
The kick. That unnamed chasm, that place where loneliness continues beyond what you can imagine, tunneling through my brain like maggots in slabs of bad pork. Schweinerei. Ragged woman. You will never feel the hollow clench of want, the rising pitch of the lacing corset, bile-yellow words bubbling up the throat, nearly impossible to swallow down again.
What I am, what you think I am, has changed you and you must admit this. You loved me though you did not know why, like it was mandatory, love beckoned you to study me shrouded in lace on the alteration platform where I stood, too long, gnashing the bitter grit of lovesickness between my teeth.
I want you to know I do not like it when you call me your pretty present. I do not like it when you examine me coldly; when you will not tell me the weight of your knowledge or what it will feel like when I have it. And I will have it. You fail to understand there is a way in which I need you, and it is not the way that would keep me jellied in a jar, leave me bound in your chambers. And it is not the way that would bleach me, suspend me in ethanol or formalin or salt to leave a perfect, shelved specimen. You think you would like to see me that way. Is it because you have leashed me to your side and I have not run? Is it because I like your pale hands beneath my skirts? The mystery of our perfect, fluid exchange? But every touch from you inquires rather than intimates.
I should be happy, but dread chews me alive. Promethean persuits leave one no more than peckings for the crow.
To shed my form would body forth a species unfolded from clotted blood and the actions of men. Sow-heavy in my nightdress, I would creep past window panes, cramped and dripping, smiling at grief. The very slough of progress would reduce to thin ribbons of progeny as deformed and abortive as the last effort made to envelop me. And if the ethanol or formalin or salt combusts, or lightning leaves my hair skunk-streaked at the temples, or if I, running slick, plummet from abysmal alpine ice, I will return. I know not how. How does a woman bear the child of science and reason? Stolen at night from wet soil? Made of meat for the dog? Cords run through my body, tightening a nipple, taut enough to send tremors through digits. The matter encased in my skull, egg-scrambled, congeals nearly every day. Stitch my holy orifices, the holes of my collapsing in. In bitter cold I will belly-crawl back to you, acrid and squealing.
Emily Murman is a poet and future mortician from Chicago. In April 2019, she was awarded the Gail DeHerder Memorial Prize in Creative Writing.
She holds an MFA in poetry from National University and is the author of two chapbooks, "SHRIVEL AND BLOOM" (Dancing Girl Press, June 2021) and "I want your emergency" (Selcouth Station Press, July 2021).