ANARCHA AND I NEGOTIATE TRAUMA
Anarcha passed me hers by her teeth and I nearly choked in the making of space for her mammoth seed alongside mine. I trusted her with a mouth too full to speak. I trusted her to slide something flora inside of me. The first time I felt another person’s desire it was pressed on my leg and this leg was pinned to the couch. In so wanting to tell this, I pitted my mouth twice. There was meat initially on the peaches that we halved off and fed to each other making sure to miss the mouth enough for the lips and neighboring skin to get sweet and slick. Anarcha had oil-slick arguments with me, and I felt shudder when they were over. I never wanted to nutcracker someone’s head with my thighs so badly. She told me the children knocked the latch off her bladder when they came into this world. She told me her body was yet living, and still a body donated to science, but she wanted to be taken with and by me. Around the pits, I said, I am a poet and a queer and I cannot real-estate a bit more of my tongue to doctors or men. And with this heavy mouth, I spouted these words in whale song. Inaudible. Why don’t you spit those out, she said, so I can hear the yes that’s under all that seed?
EDMONIA LEWIS AND I ON ACADEMIC LEAVE
We rush to a movie theater first, where the quiet is kept by dozens of heavy, resting tongues. From the back row Edmonia studies the way film glow illuminates every movie-goer silhouette. I’m used to her obsession with anatomy’s infrastructure. We return to our shared apartment, but only after she’s gorged her pupils on the cheekbones of a sleeping woman. The night we met, Edmonia viced my jaw in her god hand. I was more frightened by what she could learn from the strain in my hinges than the dull pain she pressed into my mouth. That same night she told me that it’s impossible to bring a lover to the small death she deserves. An orgasm is excavated, not given, she told me. I would never argue about pleasure. I would never argue with her hand on my throat. I still feel fully enrolled when she swings my limbs from chill to pose. She’s sculpting a hard woman in my image. Rome, she says, that’s where we need to go. It’s one of those modeling sessions where I forget I’m naked, almost forget my body all together. I break her rule and sway out of the way she’s fixed me. I float across the room. The places where Edmonia’s bones were fractured still hold those violent reverberations. When it rains I massage the static hum out of each point of impact. She’s too busy building me, perched among the pillars of Italy to see I’ve gotten up. I put my hand on the dip in Edmonia’s back so she knows at this moment, she is cleaving the wrong woman.
XANDRIA PHILLIPS is the author of Reasons For Smoking, which won the 2016 Seattle Review chapbook contest judged by Claudia Rankine. She hails from rural Ohio where she was raised on corn, and inherited her grandmother’s fear of open water. Xandria received her BA from Oberlin College, and her MFA from Virginia Tech. Xandria is a poetry editor at Winter Tangerine, and the curator of Love Letters to Spooks, a literary space for Black people. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and Callaloo. Xandria’s poetry is present or forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, West Branch, Nashville Review, Nepantla, Gigantic Sequins, Ninth Letter Online, The Journal, The Offing, and elsewhere.