Elliott Sky Case is an LA native based in San Jose. Their work has appeared in Voicemail Poems, as well as two self-released zines, get home safe and dog star. Elliott is a Virgo sun/Libra moon/Scorpio rising and married to the sunset.
Genesis In Miniature
My name is a reaffirmation:
Jehovah is God. I spent weeks
re-reading its meaning before
I ever dared say the syllables out loud.
My old name faded like a memory
of a long-ago trip to a country
where I barely spoke the language.
I’d like to be a namer— someone
who gives titles to racehorses
or streets or nail polish,
an Adam of my own tiny world.
I’d give myself a new one every day:
Moon Alley, Kinky in Helsinki,
or Always a Winner—any name
except the one I’ve been made
to wear on my chest like a logo
on a middle school gym shirt,
sweaty and waiting to be handed down.
mother’s day discount card rack
some mothers are selkies who leave everything smelling like seawater. some mothers were raised by children, or wolves, or both, or no one. you suspect they have hollow nightingale bones and songs obscured by cut tongues. some mothers never learned to say no. some say, “be glad i’m not my mother.” some mothers are voicemails that go unplayed, undeleted for weeks. some mothers have names their other mom-friends tell their children not to google. some mothers are at a cemetery in culver city, and not at shabbat dinner—lighting candles and pouring wine. some mothers make the smell of cigarettes a comfort your whole life. some mothers remind you they spent decades weaving pain into a gauzy blanket to keep their children safe in.
Someone praises me, and I
embroider their words
onto the skin of my stomach:
carefully choose the thread
(burnt umber, ochre, mint green)
and wet the end with a little spit
before sliding through the needle’s eye.
Every stitch made, another morsel
of reminder that I belong.
I can take my new masterpiece
with me everywhere I go:
hand slipping under my shirt
in a cold bathroom stall
to trace the smooth pattern,
making sure it’s still there.
When I glance in the mirror,
my eyes seem slightly changed,
an extra glint, like I’m sunlit
somehow—before I tug my sweater
down over the softest part of me
where I’ve made myself canvas.
• cut my hair too short
• eat a baked potato
• relearn holding myself
• in my own lukewarm arms
can’t think full sentences
without imagining them
spoken to someone else:
• how could I phrase it best for their ears?
• how might their hands move in response?
when my dad lived alone
he baked me a lot of potatoes,
not knowing what else I’d eat
he always said:
• the skin is the best part
• where all the nutrients are
what a dad-like thing to say! a story
I’d tell you at 2 am
to better endear myself to you
can’t even look at myself
naked in the mirror
without hearing your voice
telling me good things,
making me itchy
like I’m covered in bits of clipped hair.
makes me want to screech:
• every word I crave hearing
• high pitched enough to break glass
• all over this dirty carpet
Every building in West LA looks the same
The museum placard read:
“Holding a dying creature during childhood
will leave the offender
with trembling hands for life.”
On a bridge in Culver City, I pointed out
the most depressing river in the world.
You answered: “That’s a river?”
Above the cemented-over artery
that trickles through my hometown,
I told you: “I feel like screaming,”
knowing you would let me go ahead.
Afterward, my throat would itch for days.
Riding Metro past the rows of strip malls,
I wasn’t sure I ever aged above sixteen.
I miss so much until I remember
the reasons I left,
and then I miss those things too.
I’d like to say I don’t need permission
to scream my lungs out at that
which leaves me full of tremors—
but it’s nice to hear someone tell me it’s okay.