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Rachel Van Blankenship

A good girl is the solution, not the problem

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I'll always wear scars
from playing with mom's BiC razor
in the bathtub.
The blades stuck, almost organically,
like running my fingers over ornamental wheat
on her nightstand.
I was never a cutter, just curious
how something so precise could slice me
the way divorce had
or two different doorbells sounded like home,
never knowing which to answer
as my father's daughter.

The pillows between my legs were softer.
Objects I pushed inside didn't hurt like people.
Until that blood bath
where something I touched
didn't touch me back - it cut
and after that everything became symbolic:
I saw loss in cigarette butts thrown to the curb
Loneliness in clocks counting our time
instead of their own
I learned a mean bark
always masked something trembling.

My father
nicked my fingertips
over and over each time I got closer.
My hands healed
but proved a hungry girl
will always misinterpret
fireflies lingering on her palms
as declarations of love.

The Father's Masterpiece

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Canvas stretched
He smeared gesso like semen
scumbled ribs, bore a girl glazed
in kerosene, linseed oil
Her pointillistic eyes
praised by curators.
The rendering he left unsigned.

Slack Tide

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When I was a girl, we'd camp by the ocean
and once, I waded into the water, cutting my foot
on a shell. From that moment, I was a mermaid.
My blood leaked into salt water, salt water
leaked into my blood. We were blood brothers
and sisters, too, and lovers, souls
connected the way weeds grew towards light on the dunes.

Men looked at me in tight suits. When I didn't look back
men would say: smile girl, don't you speak?
Pretty girls eye-fuck
Pretty girls open their mouths
Pretty girls with nothing to say speak
too much

If they only knew how loud the world sounded;
how loud the waves; the voices; the sand
breaking under my feet; the pleads
men like them would never gasp aloud.

I ran away through slack tide, the salt
burning my crescent cut - a drug
plunged in my first track mark

You Know Exactly How to Undress Me

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The summer grows anemic on the stove
cold, unstewing
My hard shell
a season outgrown.
I'm walking the shore of our inbetweens
collecting fragments, carapace,
What of the animals inside?

We use the same towel to dry our bodies –
a grape-garlic smell purged in steam.
What have we been feeding on?
I'm starving, bird. I left one bite,
You hardly touched your dinner.

All the incompetence around me.
All the helpless people to help.
Why did it have to be you, too?

I've made our fingers.
Fat fried up
words: sliced onions, marrow
Our lovers' stew.

I will never touch tongues again

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In the flood of '76, a women I loved
lost all but one baby photo.
Her visions revolved around how she looked
in a single drowned memory. She held this receipt against her bones.
Her body, being lighter fluid, always burned.
I painted her pain with balm, but no matter,
she was marked
by old water lines
on her walls.

I cleaned her crying, mud, moss,
held rotten beams,
touched tongues.
Never again.

Inside our mouths
was a match.
My hands
on her stove,
fingers burned.
We were masters in
Killing with Fire. She found
love was the most effective one.

My Hand was Sweating Peaches Against Yours

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I arrived home to a blind-eye house,
showered with heavy arms.
I should have made coffee.

The winter sky was thin,
pushing the sun though
like a hard yolk.

One step at a time up stairs,
the umbrella of my body
dodging the day's flickering dreams,
cackling voices.

You nibbled my breasts like wood ear mushrooms.
I swore I could hear summer crickets
singing from your arm pit.

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