Bless the Damage

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.