by James Shrader
I’m prowling the empty house
for masturbation material, for suggestive loot, anything
regarding the body. In my sister’s room maybe
for underwear care instructions, pantyhose packaging
with the drawing of a leg, or tampon toxic shock warnings.
Not exactly in my right mind, I dig
through a footlocker past bedding and trapper-keepers
to the bottom where, beneath it all, is a book, careful to remember
everything’s alignment, its orientation to each other item
in the carefully packed locker.
Less of an unpacking than an unpeeling
of layers, a splaying of pages. To remember always how it looked,
because there would be no way to explain why I’d ever been
to the bottom of that trunk, or in her room at all. No
explanation. So I was careful to remember.
Surviving Sexual Abuse. Like unearthing
unexploded ordinance in a playground. Like having dug
too deep. I went away behind my eyes, recoiled from the extremities
of my body. I closed the contents of that room and sat alone
in silence for hours, with no way to un-see
what I’d found, with no way to know
what it meant, and with no way to ever fill in
the blast crater, to reconcile or at least re-bury the artifact,
to diffuse the bomb. Now I get to sit on that grenade like a male
penguin on his egg, slightly dumb, silent, bracing, mostly numb.
James Shrader enjoys six-word essays. He writes, therefore he waits tables. He pays rent in two countries. His wife and dog are aliens. Poetry is some new, scary thing. He has started over many times. A few editors have said yes.