A story in parts
A list of things I thought of and had to restrain myself from doing before my grandmother’s funeral
Pack shorts and sneakers and a hoodie and my my BLACKLIVESMATTER bracelet and a book into a survival pack because she said It’s 2017, come as you are and I didn’t have slacks because I don’t look right in them or sometimes I don’t eat right or enough or at all so who knows if they’d fit or I don’t get my clothes ready ahead of time because I keep hoping I won’t need them or
Telling my family that grief isn’t something they have to withold it to get, that this already doesn’t make sense so they don’t have to scramble it painful even further, that they don’t get to monopolize this like they do love or whatever it is that we do to each other
Standing up in the middle of Blessed Assurance to say FUCK THIS SONG I mean I like to be assured as much as the next person but why couldn’t she get something my Granddad didn’t already have? Why couldn’t she get a song to herself?
Yell out he was a rapist or the closest thing you can get to it when they called out his name and how in love they were and how good he was and maybe I’d tell them if he was so fucking good why are all of us still healing why did we need to heal from him in the first place
Scream for the entire two hours because she left long before she died and I didn’t know that time would take so long but run so quick and I miss her I miss her I miss her I don’t even have enough of me in me to know all of what I need to miss
Punch something every time that other pastor started to speak
Laugh out loud obnoxiously as he tried to use my grandmother’s death as a way to guilt people into turning their lives around or some shit
Say no when people wanted to take my picture Say no when people hugged me
Find the bottom of the liquor bottle
Find the red underneath my skin
Find some kind of answer that probably won’t make sense to anyone else but for a moment, could be enough
An ode to laughter would look like just the chuckles and giggles bubbling up that last just for a few seconds, the tears pouring down my face and stomach crunching into abs i’ll never have and my jaw so full of ache just because my mouth cannot hold all the joy coming up from within me. i wanted to talk about how quameice always makes me laugh and its usually at my expense but somehow it makes it even funnier how my family are some of the best damn storytellers ive ever encountered but the most of them make fun of me at least once before the punch line is through with my throat. i’m sorry. this was supposed to be joyful. or i think this was supposed to be happy but i don’t quite know how to hold that yet. i’m hoping this learning will soften my words or at least make them easier to carry. i hope that with all the stuff i got swirling inside me i hope joy or something close to it is at the center of it all. i don’t have shovel nor strength grand enough to get to the root of me, but i hope when someone gets there they report back only good things, but only if they’re true. i hope they come back with a map, after leaving breadcrumbs from my outer layer til they get to my molten lava center, hope they leave a trail for me to follow so one day i can journey in here and learn about myself myself. i meant to make this about my gut rolling laughter but most of the things ive laughed at come with too much hurt attached. i dont meant to bring anyone down here. i didnt even want you to know i was down here. but the last time i laughed and it didnt hurt too bad was when bernie mac was performing and my dad was on the floor laughing so hard he had to hold his stomach for fear the happiness was burst out. i was laughing at bernie cause i love that
motherfucker but i was laughing at my dad more, how he’s teaching me joy at every turn how he allows us to laugh at his laughter, as if to say, come with me and rejoice in all the good i’ve found in this one moment, come with me and forget for a moment, all of our undoing. time’s almost up. i can’t think of much more. this was one of the hardest things to try to write. why is joy so hard for me. why impossible almost.
oh this is gonna hurt
or my baby teeth are scattered in the bedroom of the first house underneath the lavender paint job
and in our bathroom under the dark blue sea walls
and! i didn’t know this until this morning
but in the lie that i don’t think they realize is a lie of
“i don’t know what they’re talking about. i had a great childhood.” one of my teeth is in the tongue i kept from speaking against that.
my baby teeth are in the forearm of my yesterday trying to bleed the pulse dry.
my baby teeth are packed beneath the soil where i could make sure
at least one part of me didn’t have to grow up too fast.
my baby teeth are halfway across the world by now, knapsacks thrown over their shoulders looking for a better life
my baby teeth were swallowed accidentally and purposefully necklaced around my graveyard heart
my baby teeth are at the end of my question
this lifelong journey of healing from trauma
my baby teeth are not an answer just a fossil that serves no purpose but i carry the weight anyway.
my baby teeth are not
i carry anyway.
“You know when you go back
you can’t just pull yourself out of there [He/She/They] gonna realize someone isn’t there
Who would you put in that place instead? How would you save them anyway?”
My aunt thought that this would be the end of it. That I wouldn’t obsess over knowing there is
an evil out there
that I can stop if I just figure out how
to keep everyone quiet.
She continued eating as if I had a taste for anything but salvation now.
But she does this every time I come back, like I haven’t already finished.
Every time I go back, it isn’t the same.
The first was me, just to make sure it worked.
I went back to kindergarten
the smell of crayons and baby wipes mixed with that pure kind of laughter only children carry,
giving it freely as if they’ll never run out.
I checked the clock outside the hallway and
moved quickly to the boys’ bathroom
the laughter of children getting further and further from me as if it didn’t exist at all.
I don’t care to remind myself nor you who and what they looked like.
That’s not the story I want to tell here.
What I want you to know is I stopped it
before her underwear were around her ankles and the pink stalls turned sound proof to scream. What I want you to know is I stopped it
before it could get any worse.
I think my aunt was worried changing the past would undo the me she had worked so hard to love.
That seeing all of this would remind me of the ugly of the world
and I’d leave and make sure
I didn’t come back right
if at all.
It’s not my duty to hand out justice
and thank God because mine would look so much bloodier than this.
My duty is to look at each person I go back for and make sure
by the time I turn back to now
their eyes don’t ever look like back then again.
The children, the young women, the everyone eyes watering from the almost
are whisked away before I do the next part.
I tell them to imagine the safest place they know and if they can’t do that
one person who they trust to hold them right now.
Sometimes, I have to ask them again because here, the heartbreak,
where or who they ask to go
doesn’t move them from where they are.
Those times are the hardest.
I just send them to Keara, who has a home in the forest and makes them hot chocolate or tea
as soon as they arrive in her living room.
She sets them in a bed that will keep them safe
Until they can come back,
if they want to come back.
There is no one I trust more than her.
The next part I don’t wish on anybody.
I imagine the man at work talking about underage girls
and talking to them in front of me
I imagine my manager coming up to me kissing me
and holding a box cutter to my throat
I imagine sometimes my grandfather but mostly anyone who has wrapped desire
which isn’t everyone
but it sure feels like it
I imagine all of that and walk towards the one in front of me
so intent on violence that they are ready to aim it
at whoever comes next (doubly so since I’ve taken their target).
I walk slowly. I’m not in a rush.
My pulse earthquakes the sand in the time turner tied in a knot around my neck.
I could make this easier for them.
Sure, I could make it end quicker with magic
Just a swish and a flick
and they’d crumble before even taking one step towards me.
I pull out
my hammer from behind my back.
that would be too kind
and we’re not talking about kindness,
their eyes widen and I try to stop the curl of my lip.
im gonna be super real with you i had a nightmare that was so real that it got me needing a restraining order on my subconscious, it got me feeling like i gotta treat myself better because what kind of ghosts are slipping through the cracks that have me dissociating so bad i have absolutely no certainty that im here, that have me moving so reckless that i gotta put out a every moment reminder to just keep breathing? and if these are just a few of the undead what does the damn graveyard i made look like? how the ones down there surviving? if i got a restraining order, who would take care of them? or at least, who would give them something to throw their fear against? im real fucked up tonight but why am i acting brand new why im acting like this wasnt coming, its already been here? i put it here. oh. i put it here.
What does genre mean to you and how does it build/unbuild your work?
Genre really just means the closest way for me to find what I’m looking for in the library. Before we had the electronic ways of finding books and movies, I used to really depend on genre to find what I was looking for. But now, with Netflix not knowing that some depressing ass movies are not comedies and books with LGBTQ and BIPOC characters are hidden in the last sections you’d ever expect them, genre mostly means scavenging for what you need, yourself. It builds/unbuilds my work because I can’t find a clear line between when I write poems and prose, when I write games and talk to my friends, and I don’t want to. I believe that blurring genre gives artists, especially those who are marginalized, the space to create the works we need and yearn for without looking for cisheternomative white patriarchy’s permission.
Alexis Smithers is a black nonbinary creator and student working in the service industry and (blessedly) Autostraddle. A 2015 Pink Door Fellow, 2016 LAMBDA Literary Emerging Writer, and 2018 #GrowWithGoogle Scholarship Recipient, they have work in FreezeRay, Glass, and wusgood.black among others. You can find more of their work at youhavethewritetoremember.net or follow them on Twitter @DangerLove12.