HOW TO MOVE
(November 9, 2016, post-US election)
Notice how rocks and weeds find rest beneath the palm tree,
notice that the lamp in the back yard is now broken.
Notice the wind chime crying for the next day.
Your mind has been peeled like an apple.
Start by walking down the street.
Don’t sit on curbside couches covered with dead leaves.
You went to the river, which ripped off its dark dress.
You entered the world expecting a sunrise every day.
Today you found a bottle cap on the trail beneath white sand and pine straw,
and carried it back to the trail head, past droppings of bobcats
dogs, rabbits, and deer. You carried it to the dumpster, opened the lid,
and dropped it in. You could have brought it home as a trophy.
Back at the trailhead, two women asked if it was safe
to walk in Florida woods, wanted to know if any creatures would hurt them.
You had to be honest, and told them to not feed the alligators
and not to swim in the river at dusk. You were born
among these pines and saw palmettos, you played in scrub and sand,
and look, you said to the two women, I’m still alive. You failed
to tell the two women, strangers in this world,
that rattlesnakes often hide on the underside of fallen trees.
THE ZIPPER IS FOR OPENING MY MOUTH
If I ever had a real voice it was a snake tattooed on my arm, an asp, an enticing purple, black, green asp with wings hidden below its belly.
In school, teachers assumed I had a speech problem, and I marched with other non-speakers, stutterers, and kids who slurred their words down the hall to the library. Mostly we were little women, the title of a book we found on the dark library shelf. None of us were allowed to take it home.
Mother used a safety pin to keep my lips shut. I imagined a bee stinging my tongue. My face blurred like a camera moving at high speed. Several men wandered up my arm before I could get any words out of my pinned lips.
When I became a woman, I hired a seamstress to sew a zipper on my face, which runs from my left lip to my ear. I can reach the zipper myself. I slide it open anytime I want, the crust of childhood oozing out like gravy over the flowers I have tattooed on my cheeks. I keep the words all to myself.
Terry Ann Thaxton has published three poetry collections: Mud Song (2017), The Terrible Wife (2013), and Getaway Girl (2011), as well as a textbook, Creative Writing in the Community: A Guide (Bloomsbury, 2014). Two of her poetry books have been awarded a Florida Book Award. She’s published essays and poetry in Chattahoochee Review, Pithead Chapel, Connecticut Review, Gulf Coast, Cimarron Review, flyway, Lullwater, and other journals. She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.