Poetry / Allisa Cherry
:: Bless the Damage ::
Now that time has nacred over the rough edges of memory I can say that you were a real beauty. A shiner. You glittered like glass shards in the baby formula. I mapped my way forward in the darkness by the pulsing gleam of you. Sometimes the lung-stopping quartz in the quarry and sometimes the toothy drill— its circumference as wide as two bodies entwined—bearing down and fruitful. When I finally went to Oahu I went there without you. I sliced my foot open on a bit of coral. It was my first time snorkeling. The first time I’d seen a school of fish. My presence small before a wall of countless eyes, I felt—for the first time—beheld. Back at the hotel, I sat on the sink and scrubbed the wound out with bar soap and a toothbrush feeling resourceful and alone. And it wasn’t the shine casting off the warm water or the ribbon of blood unwinding that I found most compelling, but how the cut resembled a lightning strike across the arch of my foot—plumped up with white blood cells rushing before infection. How the tight red skin looked like it might burst into bloom the way the peony buds you sent to my new apartment bloomed. They were still petal-dense knots when they arrived. And I got to watch the entire life and death of them: the almost obscene way they swelled open, and then the velvet bowl of each petal falling empty across my kitchen counter.
From the writer
:: Account ::
: I’ve spent much of my life thinking about the subtle and not-so subtle threads of violence that run through large families and rural communities. Because of the particularly religious bent of the town I grew up in, much of this violence was shaped by traditional assumptions about gender. It also dangerously overlapped with love and loyalty. In fact, the whole of it—patriarchal faith, family, brutality, sexuality, love, and rural life—are so tightly entangled, I began writing as a way to tease the tension out of the knot.
I have found that the more complex the matter is in my history, the stronger my preference for clean lines and clear syntax in poem. Though, of course, not always. It is often easiest for me to interrogate my upbringing intertextually, to tie my work to the religious books that gave me both my earliest affection for language as well as my most damaged understanding of my designated role as a female in my community. And so, I often see my poem’s speakers quietly struggling with language to wrest their own dignity and power back and to revise their position in sight of the patriarchal systems they grew up in.
Allisa Cherry grew up in a rural religious community seated in an irradiated desert in the southwest of the United States and has since relocated to the Pacific Northwest. A recent MFA graduate from Pacific University, she has just completed a manuscript that explores the way faith, family, and landscape are often reshaped by violence. Her work has received Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations and can be found in High Desert Journal, Westchester Review, and at SWWIM Daily, and is forthcoming at The Columbia Review.