By: Freesia McKee
You don’t yet have language for it, and you won’t for many years. But I’m thinking of your shame as high noon. The sun is just passing through, and the night will be cool and full of possibility. All you need to do is close your eyes to feel a generous darkness. The inside of your mouth is also dark, your teeth resting quiet as empty white shoes.
You dream of a life for which there are no words, just colors, pressures, fabric swatches you’ve heard the textures of. The inside of your school uniform shirt, terrible mauve polo, is dark and brief. You have a friend who wears her uniform on the weekends. You have a friend who’s avoiding you for a reason neither of you know. Half of your friends will come out in ten years.
Some college is setting up a table with flyers in the cafeteria’s atrium as you sit in an auditorium with one-thousand other girls. You stand out in more ways than you’re comfortable with, but you’re special, so lucky you’re not allowed to go to confession. You wonder, why are you here? You think you’d wear your circumstance better if you’d been provided with a different body, one you admired more.
Comparisons are a waste of your time. You’ve been given so much.
If only I was…I could…
If only you were, you would be only that. But you are something
there isn’t even a word for. You’re writing articles for the school newspaper, the teacher who gives you the space for idealistic paragraphs on veganism and an album review of Ani DiFranco. That isn’t the half. Picture yourself three weeks before graduation in the journalism room on the school’s third floor, spinning your chair during the lunch hour, “working,” where they used to literally cut and paste, and a line of beige desktop computers takes up the counterspace.
Out the window, it’s a piercing part of the day, high noon. See that bird, that butterfly, that dragon? They existed before language, too. Insistent taxonomy stapled in like the booklets those colleges mail you. Sometime soon, you’ll start sending letters out. You’ll become a writer.
The journalism teacher knows what it takes. He’s spent years making space for girls like you to pick their own topics, even in this place with a crucifix above the door. Soon enough, you’ll push free of the last ribbon, the wordcount. The darkness will stream into the windows as they swing open and lower to the ground. You’ll know the score.
Freesia McKee is author of the chapbook How Distant the City (Headmistress Press, 2018). Her words have appeared in Flyway, Bone Bouquet, So to Speak, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Virga, Painted Bride Quarterly, CALYX, About Place Journal, South Dakota Review, New Mexico Review, and the Ms. Magazine Blog. Freesia is a staff book reviewer for South Florida Poetry Journal. Her reviews have also appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Pleiades Book Review, Gulf Stream, and The Drunken Odyssey. Freesia was the winner of CutBank Literary Journal’s 2018 Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, chosen by Sarah Vap. Find her online at freesiamckee.com or on Twitter at @freesiamckee.