Iman Serag, Musical Lights, 2015
Elastic fabric, thread, jingle bells

Somehow, walking through
the clover, I caught a bee
between my big toe and sandal,
and now my toe’s full
of sting. Have you ever
put your weight on something
swollen? It’s like you’ve placed
an unburstable grape

between your body
and the floor. The landfills,
I’m told, are filling
with used pens and tampons—
another argument
someone will use to say that all those
who have periods, regardless
of gender, belong
to silences
and shame. My mother’s kept the name
of her third ex-husband
who raped
a thirteen-year-old girl
and went to prison
but got out before the end
of his sentence. I spoke
to him only once,
an exchange in which he threatened
to kill me if I ever
called my mother my mother
again. I have been orphaned
and unorphaned
by the years, which crowd
and move against
one another like the insistence
of teeth in a small
mouth. My body is
its own prosecutor
and defense, a one-woman
court where every charge is
denied or trumped up
by guilt. All mirrors do
is show us how we think
others see us, but I want one
that shows me only
how I see myself. This butterfly-
shaped organ in
my throat has handed in its
two-weeks notice
but I won’t let it go.
I wonder what lives
my gallbladder and tumor are
living, reborn again
by freedom and bloodless
decay. Sometimes I think pain
is the only language
all humans share, but then a male
doctor tells me
I’m just exaggerating
the scale.


Emilia Phillips