What a terrible, messy thing to be given a heart.
You walk along, maybe humming, maybe wandering and wondering - then -
a sudden red mass, thrust into your palms: its sodden weight dripping
with thumps, an unrelenting reminder of its hereness, its belonging
to someone who liked your smile, who even heard you read a poem on mute,
their pulsing drowning out the words to focus on the curving
of your lips, let their mind wander without wonder.
To be a muse is to be decided for. To be posed, to still your body
if not your whispering instincts: that you should have been asked,
that “subject” is a verb and not a noun, there’s a crack
in the pedestal and you didn’t struggle
out of your mother to be an ornament in someone else’s story.
So soft the alarm bells clink, like toasting glasses.
Soft because they have been sanded down like your edges
and called love, they have been painted over like your mouth and called love,
they have stretched blank canvas across your name, as if your ancestors never fought
to pass it onto you, as if you sprung from sea foam,
from a holy skull, a handmade reward for that wayward beast beating
its escape route from its cage of bone.
You, of course, say nothing. Use your best manners, glow when you’re told,
carry whatever names and attributes they give you. You try not to look
at the bloody lump in your hands. It confirms what you know:
a gaze that can behold and not see makes a monster as easy as a maiden.
Every love story is a witch hunt on its best behavior.
Old habits don't have to be your own
old habits to die hard.
I render myself at a distance. Board up the cracks
where a personality might wriggle through.
Let me try again: once I had black hair.
Once I was a man, empty and incapable
of love. Lies made laurel by
their weaving into ode, song, promise.
Sometimes I lie. Sometimes I fart
in my sleep. I sleep alone. I like that.
Sometimes I feel my body's edges,
nosebridge to knuckles to knees,
make flesh the reminder
that however indefinitely imagined,
I am bounded in skin.
Sometimes I recite the facts of myself:
my birthday, my allergies, the mole
on my back. Each certainty a pin
through everything named
up for debate, for declaration
by any pen-wielder in eyeshot.
When I shake the pretty off
I become the one the wisemen
warned you of in whispers.
The whole of me is sharp,
silver and slowly turning
outward, dancing spiderwebs
through the display-glass.
About the author
ALISON KRONSTADT (they/them and she/her) is a writer, youth worker, and anti-partner abuse advocate currently living in Boston / on stolen Wampanoag land. Their work is featured or forthcoming in The Breakwater Review, FreezeRay, Cosmonauts Avenue, and HEArt Online Journal, among others. Find her on twitter @flalymagee.