Two Poems by Jessica Lawson

Straight Lines

To draw a body is to find its center line. The line may sway energetically, but proper curve is only admitted in relation to this center.

Crush is a word for necessary unnecessary violences and also the word for walking past a window. I happen to know that you are inside at this time and I can’t happen to not know this. I walk past the window and become consumingly aware of my own body in space and the limited geometries by which my figure on the sidewalk might cross the path of your looking. You can only look in a single direction, point A to my body. I hold my breath in the zone of availability. Leg lengths bolt temporary lines into the ground. I become composed suddenly of matter that spills out of the angles by which you might take me in. Alice’s stomach eats your attention and it grows me to sizes that won’t hold the line. Take the cake. I happen to notice a quiet scramble to best meet your invisible ray, like a breath 
trying to unhold itself.
“Not in favor of a reconstructed new pleasure, which cannot exist in the abstract, nor of intellectualized unpleasure, but to make a way for a total negation of the ease and plenitude of the narrative fiction film.”
The Lara Mulvey essay on Vertigo, which I can’t tell you I enjoy. There’s this hitch in your cock.
I am aware of the precise scripts available in my desire for you. I say my lines and if you touch me I will fall in them. Put your hands on my ears. Cup me I will turn to water. Water always finds a flat horizon when it arrives at rest. If you set your mouth on me the wire will string us in a single plot from here. A beaded string the end will not retrace. Until this is over we exist as a geometry of proximity to your bursting in my invisible places, the only line in my body, straight inside and translated as sheath. I walk near a window. You haven’t looked yet. When you look I feel a draft.
“An active/passive heterosexual division of labor has similarly controlled narrative structure.”
I can tell I like you when I become worried about my weight. The only curve allowed is breasts and hips and a place to fit. None of mine settle into total round. You talk about cottage cheese asses as if I’m lucky to be in the room. You want me as close to a line as I can be without being one. Desire, lack, and a wet slide.
I talk about the gaze and others hear the gays and I remember how far I am from home. Somewhere over the rainbow my body is enough and not too much and bigger than a window.
“Women’s desire is subjected to her image as the bearer of the bleeding wound.”
If it were my hand reaching for you the glass of fourth wall shatters. If it were my tongue I would choke dye and corn syrup in naming my own engine of need. My touching arm eats itself to silence.
My want for you is a room that does not contain me. They call my desire a cut because my flesh doesn’t make its own erect lines to draw a body around.
I want you to fuck me as if I were not straight because I am not. I want to pull memorized lines from my hips like splinters and grow fat enough to swallow your face. I want to lie on a bed having found better metaphors for murder. I am no body none of this happened to.



i. “setting”

long ago o small child there lived a leaping animal          it was quite 
like the gazelle            but softer and only                partially covered
in its coat             of hair in that time        o small one the animal did
what it does          and it does what it needs         to survive long ago
in need of safety              the animal pushed
its hind quarters 
to the fence.
where the grassland broke and deserted itself there was a wooden post. a length across it with writing. this is known. animals came here to become something else.

it isn’t far from here. a train runs through it now.

need transforms the body child
did you know the bones abandon
their stores to give calcium
to a fetus while the flesh wall parent wanes.

this is how we need to survive. by giving until our teeth hurt.

a length of writing directed her the number of miles to the fence.
the animal could not read she knew it by the smell.

survival is an availability to touch.
this was never what we wanted.                we did what needing asked.

ii. “climax”

long ago my precious small one the animal
pushed herself
and waited
at the man fence

insects she’d outrun before
made gentle homes in static fur.
birds too polite to scavenge sang songs of songs.
the animal’s partly quilted legs did not yet shake.

a passing rabbit kicked the fence.
the waiting animal timed her breath
to the metal’s implied music.

all of it still afternoon.
o small child.
the birds guessed the circled clouds into shape.

a scant thousand insects later and the sun gave up the ghost.
the animal not a gazelle lowered her head.
a crescent appears.
a wind makes and umakes its ribbons in her stiff uplifted ears.
a man touches the fence behind her.

somewhere in the telling a small child falls asleep and she is grateful.
you don’t need to know this let’s talk when you’re older.
the moon is artery ugly in its loyalty to the sweat of this planet.

it’s over so fast the muscle can’t make its mind on whether this is emergency. the man’s body turns the fence to a blanket and covers the animal. her tufted tail moves perceptibly against the force that holds her in place. her insides are all in place. none of this is fucking. fucking would mean she was there and he was inside her and neither of these is the case. there is just this metal blanket his breath made of festered hunger. he is built of a tacit permission to exhale on her. this is an interview. his body turns the animal to a time lapse of sediment. he is gone and she stifles quiet earthquakes from ravines her fur never had before.
you don’t need to know this yet i’ll tell you when you’re too old to be saved.
long ago an animal woke on a stack of green paper and made a slow walk home. once inside her little cottage at the unbroken grassland she shut the door and set the key on the little key-setting table. she washed under all four legs with water but not soap. she set the green papers in the doorway to the kitchen and started calling the names of ghosts for breakfast.
an unfucked thoughtform molded her silent belly into hum.

iii. “falling action”

if you are reading this at nighttime there is someone nearby
forklifting heavy air into a jar
to make it till the first of the month
to make it to morning

this is the story of hemorrhage as a property management problem.
o my small precious little unformed child there once was an animal drinking unlemoned water in a chair when the walls of her cottage began to fissure. tears. cuts. burst seams, blood and deficit, black and blue and yellow bile, weeping wounded wallpaper. the pulpy red wall muscle surveyed itself in horror as each cardinal direction yawned new rips the length of her cottage body. the animal had to think fast. there are others waiting for breakfast.
the belly breathes around you any way it can. i heard the body makes extra blood in anticipation of partum. we push to the fence. we make this work.

one upon a time there was a half-fluffed animal
stuffing wads of wet green paper
in the walls’
deep cuts
to keep
anything new from bleeding.


Jessica Lawson (she/her/hers) is a Denver-based writer, teacher, and activist. Her debut book of poetry, Gash Atlas (forthcoming 2021), was selected by judge Erica Hunt for the Kore Press Institute Poetry Prize, and her chapbook Rot Contracts appeared summer 2020 (Trouble Department). A Pushcart-nominated poet, her writing has appeared in The Rumpus; Entropy; Dreginald; Yes, Poetry; The Wanderer; Cosmonauts Avenue; and elsewhere. She is currently at work on her second book project, a portrait of bodily vulnerability at the intersection of poverty, sex, and trauma. 

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