HEAVEN: WITNESSES, poems by Jessica Lawson

Jessica Lawson’s poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Cosmonauts AvenueDream Pop JournalTL;DRThe Thought Erotic and Dusie, and her reviews have appeared in Jacket2. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and is currently in the MFA poetry program at CU-Boulder, where she teaches classes on creative writing and LGBT literature. She is currently revising a chapbook about guts and paperwork, as well as a manuscript about the downfalls of trying to power bottom the patriarchy. 


to taste admits :: involvement in :: the body parts :: where air sets down

not eating is an activity invert vitality is not and not eating is less a not than a thing a knot in throat that demands none pass

to seal a grin :: as gate against :: the world that is :: the food in it

not eating neither is inertia not eating not eats in a movement there remains not animal remains but remains a motion in the jaw that signals the passage of food not passing a hinge and a safe pausing at the airway to let pass but what lets pass and what passes

to rest a tongue :: to put to bed :: as if in winter :: garden plots

not eating moves through the body as an activity its own breakdown of what is taken in but what is taken in when eating isn’t and what is put out this belly does not inflate as a quiet balloon yet what am i swallowing if not air

to watch the cloud :: heavy with threat :: when water darks :: itself in place

not eating is too deep for kink but i walk through its pleasure the way air walks around sex that broke skin i walk to a garden to lift this shirt and in not eating see each rib in turn announce itself and the pleasure in their greeting is a new and dangerous unmouthed fuck

to make a girl :: to crack the mold :: against her chicken :: head her slut

not eating autoerotic autoerase lifts the number of fingers needed to pluck an exposed rib from the vine break it to pleasure breaking is next to godliness cumming is next to not eating is me removing my own bone hold my bone as a handle to snap to free the rib to hold this part of me apart from me to glory over bone to put rib in my not eating mouth and suck its tip like a cock i stand here sucking my own rib’s cock sucking tongue darting desperate like the face hole of a fallen baby bird i become a baby bird my body cracked a robin’s egg i was raped years ago and after nothing passed inside not even food not even not eating and not eating is a nesting in fuck not eating goes back to the garden only to dress my loins in thundercloud

to hear them out :: to eat me out :: to out my bones :: to bone myself
to be a girl :: to inside out :: to fuck myself :: to never eat

what am i swallowing if not air

Skinning: A Pre-Nup

the undersigned promises           to break her           like a banana                     in the event
of dissolution           start cut at crown           knifing                     through ghosted fontanelle
promises to section       longitude from her       head there               cuts deep meridians
meridians to cunt                               breasts           not belonging                         together
make her         to strippings         muscle   to   the   wind     if   only   the       peeled off
          protect                     as if from rain
                              the children               gripping                               ankle                     skin

Queer: A Pre-Nup

the undersigned agrees           to send air along the tracks of her spine
not knowing her queer           queer this kind           as always disappearing
the affected party’s desire collects           in crescents of ears and others
leg not spread only to expand           she fucks the shutters inward

when undersigned and affected pass           a street in couple           only one
body need contract           under gravity of assignment           to this           and only
this                     undersigned untold           because she never wanted to
scramble to show           what her love meant           in wake of not meaning
more                     the undersigned cums the rubbery nub           of pencil
erasers           affected mouth           her tongue disappears in its collection

Heaven: A Testimony

the undersigned nightmares           with the seasons           memories of a death
that turns the calendar on           in dreams the undersigned           a child again
chases the body           before the body becomes     itself           a quiet flat line
                                        for all other heartbeats           to thunder around

the nightmares undermine           as weathering                     the undersigned tries
to stand a promise next       to death           dreams of being     body large enough
adult now                     to block with     selfshadow           a heart dead already
                              the undersigned harvests new dreamhearts           in waking hours

i am the most       recent           in a series           of your attempts to save her
promising yourself       taller than tales       as she must have looked in your infancy
all your atheism           knotted           to a fist           that pumped me     cumming
work a finger through           me     passageway to spirit           work me out ouija
god                     can’t have her           love           in your place           (but)

the night mines under mine           her body dies again
                                                                                          in the tunnels you made me
          with child hands
you left them behind           skins shed           in transit to the next doomed hips
you found fresh           love           hating me           for the rot we are all consigned to

Heaven: Witnesses

when we named an unmade           baby after
your dead caregiver                     we named it
after the last unmade baby         from another
failed lover                             childhood night
mares to unbuck    your strength     cold sheet
another           unblocked death               here
and another           each of us         belonging
more to another       than to dying       or you
we stand in a row
                    the women you could not save
                              holding each a baby
                                              as corsage
from a death                 that was not waiting
and always is           i was
                                            arrogant to hope
my own children realer       than hurried skin
to bind the dream of your book finally shut

god is the birth canal you can’t get back inside
you hate heaven like you hate the taste of milk

your every nightmare is a witness

                              of your insufficient outrun

my every nightmare is an epiphany

                                          of heat and guts

our baby lives in her egg

                                blinking           stunned

Convulse Map

for Ciara, Chyna, Jaquarrius, Tiara

Everyone with proper identification has a choice in the material composition of the thing they bite down on. Brace to buzz. The switch flips and open tips of fingers turn portal for dozens of nerve spiders, missives through the body. They send the electricity through imagine the joints light like cities while keeping bugged lightening at bay. Who is listening. The children are not old enough to be used converted couched conduits to exchange a knowing hum with the conversion therapist hum to drum and mine too young but luckily for the city council it is easy enough to shade an age. All of this is to say I grew up in Indiana and I am dyke enough to smell burnt hair from a mile away. Four women were murdered this week four women this week were women this week murdered for women this weak panic defense budget national curiosity a natural interest. Everyone certifies their birth into the current. It tells a story to the sea on its way. It makes an excellent spark to conversation, I’m told, if you can cover it in paint white enough. The power that lights a sign is not the power I wish them to rest in. A dream is a wish in quiet wallets, license to spill details to quiet reports. Someone is in for a shock. I light a candle tonight and prepare to seize, biting nothing but the air that makes my face.

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