#NoMorePresidents: Six Poems by A. Martine

i have my own problems

i stop telling everyone i’m a good listener

people profess they miss me
before i clock the sentiment i ask
what did you lose
what is wrong
what is it from me that you need

i’m sorry
goodwill has again done a number on me
i don’t want to take or be taken care of
i want space

break shot
cool shot
dodge shot
i’m so badass
i catch knives in midair

i’m sorry
i know i’m just
cutting off nose to spite face
right back to square one
aimless with a purpose and a jealous muse

if six year old me could use the big words, she would say
in a world that shames you into indifference,
it is revolutionary to be kind,
to feel, to give grace if we anticipate it for ourselves

with my big woman words, i can say
there is no room for grace
i don’t want to take/be taken care of

i’ve crystallized my walnut of goodwill behind stratum after stratum of hardness
i walk down the street like a bitch
have heard it called ‘city angry’ by some

i’m sorry i’m sorry
if six year old me could see Me
she would be so sad

what you don’t get done today

i can see through walls again; where do you go/why are you hiding
what fun is it when you can tell me what my senses are for
don’t ruin my party/let me open sails upon sails

what i want changes every day/anxiety operates not on faith
but on its flighty neighbor/makes finials out of heaviest despair
i can see through walls again; where do you go/why are you hiding

i have given brevity a try, i have lived less loudly
i’ve never gotten so angry that i’ve uttered the unutterable
don’t ruin my party/let me open sails upon sails

i have let others’ righteousness give mine the shoulder check
have, tongue-tied, feigned not to speak my intuition’s language
i can see through walls again; where do you go/why are you hiding

finding comfort in parentheses smiles has never been more easy
my childhood obsession with fringe movies has never more beguiled
don’t ruin my party/let me open sails upon sails

what you don’t get done today
will come back for you in a while, loyal as a bruise
i can see through walls again; don’t ruin my party
let me open sails upon sails: why are you hiding

who gets a dateline talking head?

to be told you’ll never love another unless and until you love yourself:
to be made a fool in the most flattering conceivable way.

a thing of strange, sometimes pleasing disharmony, like hearing chopin’s wrong note étude
for the first time with little girl ears, and understanding how it could spellbind.

you haven’t done much conjuring these days; these days disappearance acts feel most
like coming home. when the world cold-shoulders you, methodical as a studied pas de danse,

when you are a ghost story of the purest sort, when you, peerless, discover you have
no survival instinct, the question is not why, but how could, why should you;

the true crime you sift through is your storm gauge: the universe watches
the missing white woman, you watch the universe watch her—and my, do you learn.

no keith morrison narrating you your own murder in all his dulcet tones
no bereaved inflections coloring your loved ones’ vibrato voices:

no recollections of rooms you lit up, no rocking of your tight-knit community:
no public discourse hijacked by your absence, vigils led, woods combed fine-toothedly.

no—even as you clench with others in empathetic pause, you suck your teeth, cool-eyed
at the next one who advises you self-love, self-care and clemency.

you’ll take coming home, fool, wrong note and all; it’s easier than explaining:
why should i love myself when the universe is telling me—

Nocturne IV: 1996

do the kids still
trick or treat?

do they still conduct
sweaty bathroom congregations

about beetlejuice and co.?
do they know?

because ankle-deep in it,

i couldn’t tell.

1996 turns up like a
flagship wunderkind;
even in the full swing of it,

4 yrs old,

i know, i can feel:

this year, man, this year,
it is something else.

nancy downs dukes it out with sidney prescott for our love : meanwhile we go high, we go low with fargo and matilda : the spice girls, cat power, bless us twice : heatmiser pulls off their best and their last : my little eyes do what they can with hey arnold, kenan and kel, kablam! : aaliyah, comes out swinging, fiona rides the tidal wave

around me the world i am already too old for,
it erupts into sound and color—

i get quiet. i get quieter.
every day pop culture spins us a wilder tale,

every day my voice takes
a disoriented detour,
takes longer to get Back to me.

my hands do all the talking,
drawing on sheets and faces
whimsical stories and playground punches;

i maneuver ‘homesick’ and ‘uproot’,
and ghost forays into middle child syndrome;

i handle my parents as people and no longer gods and
youthood,
not the cutesy apologetic trial period of later,
but the real thing, with its awkward growths and its
thinking it couldn’t get worse
than feeling like this,
hoping it wouldn’t get worse than feeling like this.

later, in the rages of disordered eating,
i’ll study pictures of my toddler self, think:

the world, She in it, it all didn’t seem so bad;
the framework, it was solid. that year, man it was something else.

the lens it only needed a little polishing.

all i took for granted, and didn’t know

the blessing of free d.c. art museums : summer,
still merciful : how much precocious, dogged grief
would come my way and linger

and now i hang at my window wondering if the kids, if they also know,
like i do, too well.

1996
comes and goes and with sticky fingers, takes with it thoughts i’ll soon to pine for, like trick or
treating up and down halesworth drive and whispering to succussing bathroom mirrors that

we believe in bloody mary.

Coda IV: Muses

mona lisa eyes me like i’ve dealt her an offending blow. bouguereau’s bacchante jeers i don’t like all your songs about me; stevens’ forlorn women come heavy to rest on my raw shoulder, when i turn away. the art institute welcomes me like an overstaying bedfellow: come in, do leave early. still, i have pygmalion’s dignity, that is to say none at all.
devotions are ugly trysts: difficult and ache-laden.
i have studied carré blanc sur fond blanc, and simultaneously said i get what you were going for and also are you effing kidding me. i have seen artists selling air sculptures and blank canvases to awestruck devotees and almost applauded their grifter audacity; notre dame burns and billionaires burn holes in their pockets to save her; art-lust gratitude clashes with where were these assholes every time a mosque or temple went up in flames?
chasms are bitter crossroads: often self-evident, always unquiet.
because what would i not have done—haven’t i chanced it coûte que coûte, no matter the cost to my sanity—and called it dying for my craft, the right to indulge aesthetics over reason? and haven’t i read my favorite story, cheering on the brazen child, while also grasping how steep the slope between common sense and emperors with nonexistent clothes? and haven’t i tiptoed museum halls like an awkward hotel guest, getting meaningless whatnots, hideous status symbols when i tilt this way, glorious, exalted legacies of humankind when that way i tilt?
resentments are revelations: janus-masked glimpses into the Conscience.
never unkindly, they make me tattle on art: how it is a privilege vessel some sail forever, absconding liability, while others discover life-saving abandon in its open seas; how it is a platform for too many, while others, always stifled, go on doubting their right to tell their own stories; how some, pygmalion-smitten like me, queue for exhibits funded by centuries of thievery and exclusory pride while curators fret over traditional core, white art audiences.
and though i’m old enough to know these resentments can be deceiving, that devotions can assuage, and that chasms are sometimes parallels:

in truth, it’s dangerous to love anything too much, too strongly, too freely.
i gather my muses like breadcrumbs,
but always, sooner, later,
drop them in my wake, hoping at least the birds will get something
out of this trite and commonplace disappointment.

after a monthlong sickness that nearly distracts from the dysmorphia, my seething body
finally tells me what she wants

it was perspective all along.

crash-banged into the world like a tossed cymbal, fitful, more bored than you had any right to be,
everything that followed was a consequence of that cacophony-chasing disposition of yours.
how you struggle!
you never stop.

rigid, muzzled, now, you don’t look so smart

i get the point
the point is eloquent
it’s such a blessing to give up
a free-fall sounds like music

but, you:
neighbor the religious with your dedication to absolutes
monomanic
in thrall with the tunnel-vision lore

rollercoaster thrill junkie
with your carpet knife to the truth
dead set that there’s more truth underneath
that must merely be sliced free, rooted out

numismatist whose currency of choice is only that perennial pursuit
of anything that would distort me to suit and mirror your mind’s reckless fixations

i’ve wrangled for decades;
you’ve stonewalled endlessly.
and all i ever wanted
was a semblance of a say,
a different way to ask the question—Reprieve—what have you not put me through?

yes, it was perspective all along:
let me out.
i am through.
you never stop;
if i let you:

we are going, you and i, to hell in a handbasket.

A. Martine is a trilingual/multicultural writer, musician, and artist, and might have been a kraken in a past life. She’s an Editor at Reckoning, co-EIC/Producer/Creative Director of The Nasiona, and has been nominated for Best of the Net, The Best Small Fictions, and The Pushcart Prize. She’s the author of AT SEA (CLASH Books), which was shortlisted for the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize, and BURN THE WITCH, which is forthcoming with Finishing Line Press. For more of her work: @Maelllstrom (Twitter)/amartine.com.

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