Fear Is a Tool of the Devil
and We have let that weapon
fashioned against us
in the world:
we have forgotten to consider
the birds, the lilies
how God loves us even better;
we are not always clothed and fed, even those who are not
we can not
add a single minute
to our lives —and yet
so many have (crunched numbers lives in a dark room)
sided with a jackal
in this wilderness
thinking to hoard manna
as if silvery lies don’t rot overnight.
I had the dream again.
The one where I’m on an orange
school bus with Freddie Krueger
and he’s sucking people’s brains
out through their ears. When Freddie
tells us what he’s planning
to do, we laugh and don’t believe
him. That ugly old man with his
face like ground beef is going to what?
Take back the world? Rob the air
from our lungs? Drown us in the sea?
No one wants to sit with him anyway;
he’s embarrassing, a relic. But then
the first scream. Maybe we feel our
mortality, but then maybe we’re at
the front of the bus
and it’s a very, very big bus and
there are hundreds of people, thousands,
six billion, that’s a lot of different kinds
of people before Freddie gets to me,
I’d like to say that in this dream
complacence peaceful as morphine
doesn’t fill my veins. That I don’t operate
based on self-interest.
It sounds like your mother resents men, a therapist
once told me. Maybe that explains your preferences.
A woman I slept with, also estranged from her father,
asked me if I’d ever wondered
if this was why
we both desired to latch
onto the warmth of breast.
A drunk boy at a party talks
about the end of the world.
Another, more circumspect,
In another culture, I might have been
antennae, spirit-channel, rattling hive
of ghosts. Sacred neuter. Uncle-aunt.
That’s a valid social function.
to a different chemical
bath in the womb.
Hair whorls. Finger lengths.
or claiming space. Did you
climb trees and eat mud
as a child or prance
in costume jewelry?
to be simple, straightforward,
to use your body as obviously
designed. Pray to draw a line
through this fallen garden, to transcend
the urgency of thirst.
My father, who believes in past lives,
told me his bi-curious college roommate
turned straight after recovering
the memory of dying in childbirth,
resolving the trauma.
Did my therapist turn out straight
because she grew up in a two-parent household?
Do contradictions have worth
outside of resolution?
Do I resent men?
Does that explain or pre-determine
pressing my lips to the base
of a woman’s throat
in the shower, predict her soft, her moan,
of any need to answer any question?
If a equals b and b equals c, then a equals c
a) A woman is only as valuable as she is desired by a man, and a man won’t desire me if I am not a woman or a man but something else entirely, therefore my value is this body.
b) I read an article about a woman who thought she was a man but still wanted to fuck men, my dad told me once. Human sexual behavior, he said, is so obsessive and freakish, so strange. And I thought, better to be pretty than strange, if I want to find love.
c) You’re my child and I don’t think of you sexually, my father’s apology for telling me I was most beautiful as a two-year-old began, but your best friend, who isn’t exactly Miss America either, I’d be on that like white on rice if I was twenty years younger. You’re as attractive as she is.
I am not out, not even to myself, and yet a page for FtMs seeking to build muscle mass appears in my suggestions. Pictures of packers, limp silicone cocks cut and uncut, briefs cut to outline them. The taste of salt in the back of my throat. Index finger picks at cuticle, blood wells up, a red bead. I have a choice, I tell myself, I can choose to be a girl. I lie.
In the wild, mothers eat
their young. Wolves maul
those who disagree. Why
do we believe ourselves
to be tender, reasoned,
impartial? Why are we
surprised by our feral, our
amoral, project our primeval
onto those we rape and savage?
ourselves. That is what animals
do. Bare teeth and claws, hold
each other down. The metric being
power, not love. But we knew this
already. We, the most fearsome
stewards, lordships, whiny
when contested, wielding
the earth against itself.
Jason Phoebe Rusch‘s work as a poet and essayist has appeared or is forthcoming in Cheap Pop, Lambda Literary’s poetry spotlight, Broadly, Bust magazine, Entropy, Luna Luna, World Policy Journal, and CCM’s A Shadow Map anthology. He has an MFA in fiction from University of Michigan.