There's Another Word for This | Jesslyn Whittell
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
My friend laughs. Close-mouthed, his jaw catches it, ha-ha. It happens
slowly, with satisfaction, with chin protruding. The sounds room, a room folds
a corner, a rented “we” eases into its tangles. Later, another friend opens
me along my neck, and I become tuneless. Look, she says, this is a wound.
Look, we say, and stars cite our emptiness. Look, look, look until empty
is a command. Look, the visibility of isolation, of strategy, of shame, shame
the highway departing this pile of rocks, only half-comforting, still audible
at night, still not a precondition for intimacy, though it’s always good to check.
Thick purples the distance, low accumulation of wasteland air accumulates
into no one’s escape. Everyone can see everyone here, without cell service. Shame
can find us here, even swimming bared to the night bared to us, pickled in pollen.
We’re supposed to be always thanking each other or noticing, and the rules
are hard to keep track of. At night, the facts are brutal and immediate,
and as we, tourists, drape ourselves in trees or against the sky, we drip what it feels like
to be seen behind us. We lie on the rocks in the sun, and this makes them
flat. We follow a map to still water, and this births several flies. It’s a troublesome
new power couched in delay, in these words accustomed to beauty, in images
worn trackless and distracting, a midnight hour melted together past measuring
the dose. The point narrows explicitly to the tracks of a train cutting toward delivery, while I
watched it in my greasy shirt and thought anything nicer would kill me. Is that shame?
Alone, I press my palms over the face of an animal and demand a moan. Her wide, wet
eyes have coated everything. Slippery water surrounds but refuses to touch me. Look,
it sloshes but not with the angles you expect. Look away. Here come the angles.
Jesslyn Whittell is a graduate student at UCLA, where she studies British Romanticism, 21st century poetry, and the roles of precision, loops, and archives in both fields. She lives in Los Angeles.