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Becoming

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“Poetry wants to live where honesty and courage have been prioritized. Poetry is the first language of a free and flying unchained heart.”
— Nikky Finney in an interview with Scalawag Magazine 


L. Renée is a third-year MFA candidate at Indiana University, where she has served as Nonfiction Editor of Indiana Review and Associate Director of the Indiana University Writers’ Conference. Her poems have been published or forthcoming in Tin House Online, Poet Lore, the minnesota review, Appalachian Review, Southern Humanities Review and elsewhere.

Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. L. Renee, what poems have you brought for us today?

 

Becoming

 

In the mirror, I palm my hips, remembering

phantom lovers’ grips which once reached

for this mess of ridged skin, stretched at the sides,

made permanently wide the summer

before 7th grade. That summer, little boys,

with their squeaky voices, flocked too

to my bare shoulders — their fingers

pecking at bra straps that peeked beneath

my tie-dye tank top as if winking at them,

as if asking for it — the tug of elastic

pulled as any good archer would a bow,

flung back as far as any good strap could go,

whirring through July’s sticky stillness until

it reached the target — whop! — slapping

my shoulders with the kind of sear seasoned meat makes

in a cast iron pan, the raging sizzle and hiss

as if stunned by its own burning. But I was never

stunned by the boys; I fretted only over my own

stupidity — for not properly hiding my

unmentionables. You are becoming a woman,

my mother said. I am becoming currency,

my body said. I am still trying to figure out

the difference.

 

 

 Some Nights We Have the Moon

  

There are no swans here, just corn

            and potatoes pushing past small-

town dirt. I want to be done

            with want, so I tell my feet

to stalk the wheat swaying

            at the edge of a field

past the silos and scythes,

            past the scabbed scaffolding

of the barn’s ash skeleton

            where Old Man Blue hung

himself, after rows of turnips

            refused to green. Sometimes

a person can have their fill of loneliness.

 

Desire is a tick that hides

            on my haunches until

the bite pulses its red

            district light, needling

my already silly goose-

            pimpled flesh, need swelling

like interminable hurricane water.

            When I float inside night’s shade

I try not to think of the wreath

            of flies that lined his neck, how

breath left with a tawdry grunt,

            but the stench of death stayed

salty in my mouth and I liked it.

 

Can blood cover shame?

            The old man wouldn’t want his good

church friends to find him

            swaying like that from the rafters,

so I cut the rope, watched

            the body land like some beached star,

five-pointed with arms and legs spread,

            the head bled a halo in perfect circle.

I let the wolf of me spread out

            and howl full-throated at the pearl

in ink clouds, the incessant

            incandescence, my back licked

by air’s black thicket.

 

I shouldn’t say what happened next,

            how a thousand centipedes

squirmed beneath my skin, how tufts  

            of fur emerged from my pores,

how I bristled like a corn husk crushed

            under a boot. I shouldn’t say my teeth

knew exactly what to do with their new

            pointy tips, how top incisors tore

into his flesh as any country

            girl would a waxy plum, careful

not to open the jaw too wide and waste

            the tart juice jolt a tongue longs for.

It is easy to suck clean the marrow.

 

From any man’s flimsy bones, gristle

            ultimately gives, mixes saliva into

a powdery broth, some succor to sweeten

            sorrow’s bitter crop. I can’t tell you

why the moon reminds me of empty seats,

            the rooms wiped clean of all who

have left us. I can’t tell you why I can’t let

            my dead rest, why I’ve always savored

their carcasses. I have never been whole,

            so there was room.

 

Note: End line taken from Vievee Francis’ “A Flight of Swiftlets Made Their Way In.”

 

You've been listening to the poetry of L. Renee on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.

 

L. Renee

(Courtesy of the poet.)

“Poetry wants to live where honesty and courage have been prioritized. Poetry is the first language of a free and flying unchained heart.”
— Nikky Finney in an interview with Scalawag Magazine 


L. Renée is a third-year MFA candidate at Indiana University, where she has served as Nonfiction Editor of Indiana Review and Associate Director of the Indiana University Writers’ Conference. Her poems have been published or forthcoming in Tin House Online, Poet Lore, the minnesota review, Appalachian Review, Southern Humanities Review and elsewhere.

This week on the Poets Weave, L. Renée reads "Becoming" and "Some Nights We Have the Moon."

Instagram: @lreneepoems​

Note:"Some Nights We Have the Moon" first appeared in New Limestone Review.

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