Here, I am native
so long as by native
you mean child of conquerors,
so long as by conquerors
you mean insidious merchants
who became expensive to dislike.
My foremothers wore powders
pressed with lead and talc.
We were white before.
As the Irish were indentured
and the Jews were shunned
we sold tough salted meat—
the flayed hides of Angolan children.
Did the women know? Did they indulge?
Spread their thighs unfinished,
sticking like paste? Did they feel safe
knowing anything they conceived
could be sold?
As a child, I thought there was a secret kept,
something the other girls’ parents told them
that let them grow up whole and pretty.
Visibly missing, the pale unformed blot
of my face, I feared my half-known gender,
a structure I lacked as my thighs
began to thicken, cloud color, rootless,
unable to find a face
to represent me in all of history.
By the time anyone tells you the truth
the damage is done. Dutch still-lives
with gutted rabbits, morbid grapes
and quaint wooden shoes.
I had already claimed the singular pain
all adolescents claim, then I learned
we bought and sold the backs
our nation was built on,
quiet strands of mold corrupting the petri dish,
ghostly fur like a nobleman’s wig.
I picked up habits of undisciplined self-punishment;
things my mother never thought to deny me.
Even when she started counting
the kitchen knives, tiny blood welling
punctures from the bristled hairbrush.
My empire, the shape of a body.
When I found someone to fuck with
I asked no questions. Greedy, consuming,
we trained each other to damage;
I coaxed my swollen flesh to sex
and heaved it into his unsuspecting hands.
Trying to say the injury aloud, a sermon into skin,
wrists bound by tongues I no longer speak in
intimacy grown backwards out of hurt,
our eyes twinned brown, the prettiest
dead horses we beat until decay did the rest.
Slave, a wet syllable in a pink ear—
I dreamt of women in cages,
of men who could hurt me half as much,
cunt scarred white on a matchtip, amazing,
the things a lover will try.
An itching sliver worked under the skin,
birthright. A dream of gold.
Of bursting sugarcane.
As a child, I thought there was a secret kept.
I still feel unfinished. Wet fold of paper,
gummed and torn. A mush of history.
The dream of absolution.
I know there are women in cages,
babies with bellies distended and toothpick limbs.
I know the conqueror’s language I speak
fences them in, certain as razor wire,
without bread or anthems.
Corrina Bain is a genderqueer writer-performer and educator whose poetry on page and in performance addresses and illuminates issues of transgression, particularly related to sexuality, gender, family and religion/mythology. Her work has appeared in literary journals including Danse Macabre, Union Station Magazine, decomP, Killauthor, and The November 3rd Club, as well as in the anthology Knocking at the Door and on the arts and culture website theRumpus.net. Currently, Corrina lives in Brooklyn and is a staff member at the louderARTS Project.