Southern Legitimacy Statement: Twenty miles north of the New Madrid Faultline surrounded by cotton fields– or land that used to be cotton fields but is now filled with manufactured homes, sits the town of Sikeston, Missouri–or, if you are over the age of 50, Sikeston, Missou-rah. I was raised in this small town, and from it I draw a huge amount of inspiration for my work.
The Ladies of Lazarus
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is number three.
I was born to a red-headed step-child and shortly became one as well. My mother survived on a healthy appetite of starvation, fear, and speed. Most of her afternoons were spent listening to country music on the radio. When she liked a song, she would record it on cassette tapes; she hid them in a dozen shoe boxes, stored underneath her bed, the songs written in blue ink across thin white stickers.
She wrote poetry too. She always laid with me until I went to sleep, and then she would sneak out of my room and settle herself in the kitchen with Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. Solitude, one was called. Suicide, another. I remember them being the first poems I ever loved.
My mom once told me she tried to kill herself:
–i took a shit ton of tylenol and hoped for the best
–ironically, i woke up with an awful headache after sleeping for 10 hours
In theory, I have already died once.
–but, that wasn’t the first time
–what was the first time
–there have been many times
One time my dad busted my mom up so bad she had to spend an hour in the bathroom attempting to cover up her bruises with liquid foundation. The cream sunk into her wrinkles and pores and only illuminated how pain ages you faster than time. You could still see the darkness in her face.
Is an art, like everything else.
The first time I did it I was 12. There was pain solid in my gut: a rock weighing me down. My body did not belong to me anymore; it belonged to him–he had taken all that was mine. That was the second time I died. This was the third. A knife lodged deep into my skin. As it went in, deep, my blood spilling out like poison that had to be released, my body shook with power and control. For a brief moment, my body was mine and no one else’s. No one could claim what they could not kill.
These are my hands
I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.