Emily Blair

An Explanation

I have prayed
since I knew who God was
and that He hated me.

I have stacked prayer down the yard
like firewood,
begging for forgiveness.
He listened but said nothing.

I lose weight for weeks, unable
to consistently chew and swallow.

God sits above it all, pushing mountains up and down.

I drink vodka with my family and realize
they know each other while I,
five years removed from home, am only
on a stopover, only listening
with my ear to the door.

I lie on Rhea’s bed and stare at the wall,
willing it to fall and cover me
with smothering security.
Eventually I get back into myself,

Rhea tells me to get out
if I’m done with homework,
impatient with wallowing
when I am ahead, and she is not.
I pretend to busy myself because I love her,
and this is normal—
only something to be done.

She screams at me in the street, across the road.

I demand we take a break,
get back together, make soup
and walk her dog. The beginning of the end
gropes at best.

God doesn’t say much
but my parents do—
a rock under water,

I sit endlessly smoothed
by repetition and pressure.

People ask how I came up, but it’s religion buckshot—
Baptist, Church of Christ, Pentecostal Holiness—
great baskets of whole wheat bread,
communion by the fistful—
my mother hoisted up
from a warm pool
with long hair
dripping a stain down her dress-back,
and me, so small
and scandalized
that she might allow others to witness her
so undone.

I have moved from the mountains of Virginia to Louisville,
a halfway city,
a shin-splint space.

I meet Rhea, here,
picking up new methods of destruction.

I find myself sobbing in her shower,
wondering how I could pray,
anymore, what I would say.
It used to come
like torrents from a storm drain,
and opaque.

Now, there is only me to talk to.

God sits in the corner,
considering his cuticles,
bored out of his fucking mind.

Girls have always been on the outskirts,
and this discomfort with men—
their large, misshapen bodies—
how they look
lumped up
under a single sheet—
I should have known
so long ago.

Rhea and I are only harassed once,
dyked out
in baseball caps and men’s clothes,
bundled against the chill.
A woman calls us disgusting in a CVS parking lot
when she sees our held hands.

I wonder if God would help me now
or if He would leave me to rot.

If I was hoping for quick resolutions in therapy,
I get none.
I journal, breaking self-hatred into smaller pieces,
increasing surface area
and sharpening edges.

A therapist in Virginia, “You shit talk yourself a lot.”
Me, “Fuck you.”
The session ended badly.

I write in shards,
finding my footing,
searching for exigence.
I was scared of miscarriages
because of lost control.

It seems infantile,
now that I want children
and it will be so difficult
to have them.
I worry about being broken open,
pulling out afterbirth with great forceps.
Some babies survive in storm drains for days,
but knowing my luck,
I would have one as sensitive as I am.
Prayers don’t bring dead babies back to life,
but the thought of a winged fetus is funny
and I’m a bad person
for thinking so.
I’m a bad person for calling my savings account
an abortion fund
while I fuck men. I’m a bad person
for threatening a man with abortion
so that he will put on a condom
(a bad person
because I slept with him

and the condom broke,

I tell Rhea
my dreams every morning.
I am trapped in my body, unable
to make voice. Once, my great-aunt discussed at length
her nightmares
about lost teeth
by the handful;
another time, my mom divulged her dreams
about being naked
in high school, taunted, attacked.

I don’t think you should talk about dreams with people you love.
I think
it says too much.

In Kentucky, my therapist’s office is warm
and she’s fine with silence
so we sit for two minutes while I pick at my polished nails
and don’t talk about my family.
In a test of willpower,
don’t stare down a woman
with a specialty in yoga.
She works with addicts all day,
so I try to make her laugh once a session,
as if she needs it
and I don’t.
I pay her to call me strong.

We break up.
People ask if I will go back to dating men
as if these months
were a fever-dream mistake.

I dreamt of drowning
and woke up with numb hands—
and her always still awake, reading,
chasing beer with Benadryl,
talking herself through
wide, hypnotic loops—
and between us, there was nothing to say.

I sit in the garden
behind my house.
My neighbor’s dog barks softly,
as if testing the acoustics.
I lean back in a rusted chair
and smell nothing.
Planes fly over every twenty minutes
because it’s the afternoon,
and this is where I live now,
all the things that happen
in a city.

I did not bring prayer to Kentucky.
There was no room.

Emily Blair, originally from Fort Chiswell, Virginia, is the product of blue-collar Appalachia and an abiding fascination with bodies in space. Her work can be found in The Fem Literary Journal, Maudlin House, Spry Literary Magazine, and Dulcet Quarterly, among others.