196.1: Brynne Rebele-Henry:: from Fleshgraphs 196

Let us consider these two concerns: What is the body and what is the self? In both philosophy and literature, these two concerns are intertwined. Where does the physical object become a conscious, cohesive human self? In her work Fleshgraphs, Brynne Rebele-Henry investigates the questions of her self and other selves in an unexpected way. Rather than the poem circumscribing an identifiable self, Rebele-Henry proposes the self as an amalgamation of things that have happened, a history of occurrences emanating from the body, directed toward the body, and passing by the body. The self arises from surviving these events, whether they are good or bad, interesting or boring, important or indifferent. We see how our own selves are imprinted on the selves around us, how as individualized as we feel, we are made of each other. As we read and witness Rebele-Henry’s self being continuously built, torn down, and reconstituted, we realize that the poem is doing the same to us. These words are now part of our selves as we read, as physically part of us as our hair, our teeth, our lungs. Andrew Wessels

from Fleshgraphs

124. “Do your girlfriends always burn your houses down?”

125. But suddenly a bird appears, a tattoo angry from the needles, and ten different shades of ink spread down her thigh.

126. She snorted the last of my coke then sang The Star Spangled Banner.

127. The horse trampled her and the sweet lemonade in her hands. We all pretended to be surprised

128. After the dead baby, I make a hole in the yard for the squirrels to bleed in.

129. But what they don’t know about is the whiskey in my coffee.

130. He’s into silicone breasts and shredded tires.

131. My mouth is a snail.

132. He looks downward, at his penis, pulls on his hoodie and street shoes. This license plate will make them call him the sex machine, he thinks. Grape juice box dangling from his mouth, he steps back and surveys: “DICKLRD.”

133. I don’t kiss boys who wear eyeliner, Meagan says, her hair feathered beyond comprehension.

134. They try to conceal their hard-ons behind lukewarm cups of Fanta.

135. His wrists are graphs of different metals.

136. I cry for the way her hands held mugs, and then for the way they touched my face.

137. His heart is a pulp of gray matter in my latex-covered hands, the places where his breath once was ache purple in the fluorescent light.

138. His drinking is becoming more fish and less grizzly bear. His mauled red organs. His shallow water breaths.

139. The junkyard is a sleet of rusted metal, he tears his knee on the fence and asks for warm milk. I wrap the remnants of a couch around his mouth so he can’t speak.

140. My fingers buttons against his neck, the tendon and vein pulsed into galaxies before a star explodes.

141. Her mouth a cotton-tailed swamp against my sternum, the hollow of it damp and sad.

142. The fish of Jesus taste like semen and mud.

143. I cut my nails with pliers and tear the top of a finger clean off. I drink a bottle and wear my wife’s old shoes, the satin worn thin and tinted like dishwater.

144. I find a magazine called Naughty Boy Boner in the cabinet where he keeps his Dover rose china edition. I put my wedding band in between the faces of a man in a Santa hat mid-thrust and a man with hair so long and thick he must be Farrah Fawcett’s baby.

145. I shoot up in my bridal bathrobe, the sequined tie glinting against my arms. I want a stained window lens for when I put on the dress with the sleeves designed to conceal and not embellish, for when I walk down the aisle with my fish-face covered in a lace doily.

146. I dye my hair the color of the blood on my thighs the first time it arrived.

147. Her mouth is a slot for me to push stones in. I slip in three.

148. Mother is a face full of wasp stings from when she batted the nest in her beer can curlers, her eyes covered in last night’s liner and Ponds cream, her spray tan a splotched sick animal suffocating her skin.

149. I fell off the pole before the baby came out, my platforms falling like angry hail, my lipstick a streak on the ground that he can’t wash off.

150. Suicide is a big fucking decision, he says, stubbing his j-bird out on my flannel shirt.

151. She’s singing “I Kissed a Girl” on my couch now. Her baby’s first word was “motherfucker.”

152. He likes boys with dark eyes and scars that don’t add up, he calls it flesh algebra.

153. She put her hand on the space above where I swallow.

154. He likes toddlers and the shapes their small wormy bodies make. He’s the pediatrician in the woods behind your house, the cashier with the cigarette burns, the teacher who looks in one place too long, who hugs too much.

155. My mouth is a hovercraft.

156. I want to consume them, the way they shake their hair, the glasses and pissed off sweaters. The way they can’t drive stick, crashing into dumpsters, their unyielding moustache embryo.

157. Her shoulder is a river for my salty face.