There’s only so much you can change about yourself.
Like this morning, I dreamt I dropped a baby down the stairs and trumpets started playing
As it stared through me with my own eyes like I’d just suicided.
Flavors of trauma come with malleable parts.
Today, I ate an entire bag of chips and painted a watercolor octopus. I thought I had cancer.
I took my blood pressure three times. I told everyone of my fear… to practice saying cancer.
In public places, my neck strains like a dried sunflower curling down, looking for the stairs.
Hell is a dream full of music.
Brandyce Ingram is a writer, tutor, and jazz-head in Seattle, WA. Her work has appeared in High Shelf Press, Willowdown Books, Sand Hills Lit Mag, Wildroof Journal, An Evening with Emily Dickinson (via Wingless Dreamer), and elsewhere. Her latest search history includes “20th-century lunatic asylums women” and “how to use a crap ton of fresh mint pesto chimichurri sauces or soju cocktails.”
It’s always the rot stench of the wound
that draws me in—the beetle to the Corpse Flower.
You were eager to unfurl your bruised blooms:
you told me about the poverty, the prison, your abusive,
alcoholic father. You winced to mention him. A palpable
stab. I ached to smell more of your festering, to share how it feels
to be birthed of betrayal. I wanted to open myself up
to you like a trench coat, show you the ax to my gut—
my mother. My vanished leg—my father. Now,
I wonder if the stalking, the drugging, the rape
was your wound reveal: This is the ghost
of my dead inner child. I’m here to show you
what can happen to children and how bad it can get.
The blood and feces in my sheets said, This bad.
Anne Champion is the author of She Saints & Holy Profanities (Quarterly West, 2019), The Good Girl is Always a Ghost (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), Book of Levitations (Trembling Pillow Press, 2019), Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013), and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her work appears in Verse Daily, diode, Tupelo Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Salamander, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere. She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient.
The table is long, filled with empty plates, glasses, and a steaming pitcher of coffee. Everyone is smiling, and grandpa has an eyebrow cocked in a sassy way at the camera. The plates are red, and they nearly blend in with the teak table. A light on the wall shines behind the family, just above grandpa. A stone fireplace sits to the right of grandpa, and his daughter, my boyfriend’s mother, sits in front of the fireplace, snuggled up close to her father– grandpa. In front of her sits my future brother-in-law, his blonde hair parted in the middle to look straight out of the 90s. The swinging door to the kitchen is far behind everyone, slightly skewed to the left. In front of the door and to the left of grandpa sits grandma, her body hunched just slightly. She leans into my boyfriend, her youngest grandchild, just as his mother leans into grandpa. Closest to the camera is my boyfriend, soon fiancé. Everyone is smiling, probably because they are full of breakfast foods, but more likely because they are enjoying the company. It’s grandpa’s 93rd birthday, and he’s going strong. I’ve heard stories about him, about the farm he owns and continues to run. My boyfriend told me all about it, about the times he worked on the farm. I can listen to stories, but that is it. There’s an empty chair at the table, and I wonder if I could ever fill it. I imagine coming with my boyfriend, or maybe fiancé, or maybe even husband one day to visit his grandparents. I want them to smile at me, offer me a hug, and eat breakfast with me. I want to sit at that table. But I know I can’t. I can’t because they are old and can’t handle change. I can’t because their grandson, my boyfriend, is the normal one, the one not married to a man, but in reality, he is. He is in a relationship with someone who looks like a man at face value but was born a woman. If he told his grandparents? Who knows. He wants to keep them safe in their old age and keep life simple. But my life, and now his life, is not simple. We are two men in a happy relationship. I have a vagina, but strangers don’t see that. We’re nearly engaged, we’ve bought the rings, and we have started the process to have a child. Yet his grandparents will never know this, never know me. And so, at night, as I’m alone in my bed, I find myself hoping my life wasn’t so complicated, that I could be normal, that I could sit at the table and enjoy breakfast.
Aarron Sholar’s book, The Body of a Frog: A Memoir on Self-Loathing, Self-Love, and Transgender Pregnancy,is forthcoming from Atmosphere Press, and his essays have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He holds an MFA from MSU, Mankato, and a BA from Salisbury University. He serves as the Prose Editor for Beaver Magazine.