Erin Slaughter

A Lesson in Canvasses

There is nothing you need to fear
but need itself. In the beginning, I spilled light
like an aborted pearl, now tenderness
registers as sunburn. Maybe we just want to know
that something, anything at all, will happen
to our bodies while we still have them.
This year has done a violence to me
but I can’t quite pin it down, can’t give it
a name or a face to hate. So what the scar
of metal, vacant plum-colored daylight. These things happen
to some people, and others, right now,
can have another person’s skin placed
directly on their skin whenever they wish.
Last month I pulled into my old parking lot
and believed again I lived there. How unsettling,
the ease of memory lipsticked in denial.
Every poem is a love letter to someone
who can’t read it and every page a hostage
in the human body. So what
of being young and the whole world
a little carnivorous. I’ve burned up autumn hoarding words
like dignity and pride, which mean to build a city
out of sandpaper and hide
inside it, but you said don’t disappear and I meant it
when I didn’t disappear. In the end, heaven is nothing but the world
we were given plus the kindest choices
we could have made and didn’t.
Last night I was sitting in a car
with someone, alone together but only one of us
knew it. The rain came and a passing train
like nothing exhaled its engines and settled
into iron. Around me other cars turned
back, found new paths, new maps
to where they came from or were going, and yes I wish I’d been
someone else in a different story, I wish some other light-
smeared sky, but the train came
and I stayed. The train stayed and I waited.

Erin Slaughter is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Elegy for the Body (Slash Pine Press, 2017), and GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018). She holds an MFA from Western Kentucky University, and is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger. You can find her writing in F(r)iction, Bellingham ReviewSundog LitTishman Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Nashville.

JD Thornton