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Raised on fire

By Zanele Chisholm

My head keeps spinning until I feel the blood-moon howling at me. Was it my mother? Begging me to come…

Home. Could it exist in two dimensions?

My own dimension seems to slip onto the tongues of scarred men, locked-jaws cracking the foundation and broken windows, cutting my skin, piercing their throats. You must break them in, grandmother Eve says. People have to be taught to destroy the things they love.

My lover is a homebody. Fucked until extinguishment, blood drawn from the fullest lips putting out the flame. The lover lives in the dark.

Hold on to me, I beg. I can’t stand to love in translucency with a lover's touch disembodied. Her kiss, it’s spiritual. But my God is lost.

And that is the most terrifying thing about love — the way it parks itself into your soul, spreads its limbs like the branches of a fig tree, filling the land of dirt with its bark and its secrets. Whispering them to you as you stare into passing mirrors until it is not only yourself you see but the face of the woman you love.

Our love is performative. It takes the shape of women most desired by her. We become a part of endless bodies, floating from frame to frame performing acts of docility each night. Yielding ourselves to the half-crescent moon.

Eve was the first woman to teach me how to become a craving, how to cement your voice into skin ,how to make a lover’s dreams your own. Their world, your world. Her bones laid me down, placed the floor onto my stomach and told my lover, “walk.” Concave ribs carved to make a love-ditch out of you.

We begin as the sun sets. Our backs curled around the half moon’s spine, the weight of our ascendance toward the space in between born by women who came before.

Eve says I must let go of all that commits me to the present if I wish to see where time rests and the grieved lay. This is not my first experience crossing into the ditch of stillness. Every woman feels the tug, the pleading of the soil, of the roots and seeds, to leave this life behind for the greatest sacrifices only asked of a woman.

But we don’t all go.

Those of us who stay, roam at night. During sex, after he comes and leaves her to create the child, she wanders. Those of us who leave only come back when our lovers are dead and the world has been rebounded around the fists of another great man claiming to know what it is to have the eyes of God watching you.

I used to imagine him as a spider, with a thousand orbs cratered into the deepest layers of his flesh, but I know now that God is just as blind, just as small and quiet as the great men wailing in the wallows of stillness. Just as dead and lost as the women they leave to be killed in the grips of power.

Eve was shivering. Nights like these are the hardest for her. Grandfather used to be her stabilizer, her constant. As if he had raised her to belong to him, he was her father in so many ways. His eyes, how thorough they were, the way they dug relentlessly, shamelessly until she was undressed of borders, open land to reign free.

They grazed on her, fed on her like wilted meat to a bull. She admired them, him, he had always been so careful, to fool her. His wicked tongue spinning the greatest tale of love she had ever known. Her father without a doubt. Her husband, too.

When she begins to unwind the storyteller's rhythms she finds the holes, the lies, the quiet, the anger. She fills them with earth from her garden, grows a different narrative. Ones where the children never heard the screams, where destruction did not paint his face, ones where the love was as true and as felt as his touch.

She begged God to give their daughter her eyes. But she learned long before I did, all the things that God could not do.

As she lay bones to the gravel, I hear them shake. She tries desperately to make herself a part of his home. Burying herself in the trenches of his yard till she hit the graves of past lovers—they are old friends. They hold her there, cry for her as she continues to dig deep as his eyes to find some truth hidden beneath all of his lies. The graves understand.

But her bones and the dirt are pieces of her and of the world that he never reached. They did not know him as her mind once had. This is where the rage is held.

“Let go,” I tell Eve. Let go

of every place that he touched, get him out, Eve, tear him out.


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