Issue 18 | Summer 2016

Open and Gross

Awakening from a binge of night,
she holds her head, raw from sleeping
against the rough brick of a school wall,

and finds herself, skirt scrunched high,
legs hanging over the edge
feeling like a stunned fish in the gunwale

and stands and straightens before
she is put in the back of a white car.
Shocked, they said, and alarmed, they said

and kids, but as ice forms in the shape
of the glass, plastic cups, or stone birdbath
as ice has no form of its own she slept

where she sat, the body of its own will
and weight when given over to, when
distance from the reality of the illusory

world is needed and is found for a few hours
one night. When the laws say the body
is offensive, and the men define the women

as metaphor for themselves, her parts
are not her parts, but sheath, scabbard,
the blue windows have failed.

The Romans believed controlling female
sexuality was necessary for the stability
of the state, but still compared the vagina

to a young boy’s anus. My friend charged
with defending the provincially absurd
says, it’s time to dismiss, that vaginas

aren’t gross. I read a passage of Thoreau
to my high school students: “We grow rusty
and antique in our employments and habits

of thought.” My friend, my first real friend,
is working to keep a woman who fell asleep
outside a school without underwear (I know

he says) off a legal lists of pedophiles.
Of conspicuous magnitude a gross
is of national scale. If my students simply

graduate their chance of committing murder
by any degree reduces by thirty percent.
I read that Dickinson’s dress was a litmus

for dust which may have induced seizures
that kept her housebound and free
to write what and when she liked. Open

letters, she called them. Open: unobstructed,
unprotected, unsealed, spread out—full
view. But also, free of prejudice, undecided,

to release. Open shame. A gross now named.
A woman’s accidental flashing turned into sex
offender status. My friend is working, writes

asking for definitions, proof in the language
of the law’s foolish eclipse. But I find
the military commonly calls their garrison caps

cuntcaps, and one looking into the wind
through narrow slits, cunt-eyed, and a joined
line, two pieces making one new, a cuntline.

Cezanne said, a time is coming when a carrot,
freshly observed, will trigger a revolution
What this woman needed was a matriarchal

cover that up dear, not to be cuffed
and carried away by etymological priggishness.
The Romans also believed if a man’s body

temperature changed enough he became
a woman. I’m looking at Cezanne’s The Abduction,
the magnitude of adolescent sorrow in her impossibly

long hair and the bathers in the background
ignoring the naked man carrying off the naked
woman, like his bathers blending in with the trees

and river they emerge from, this is what I want
to think of—the water in a Cezanne, the strokes
of her naked shoulder becoming the strokes of bark

on the white trees, bodies elemental and bright
just bodies; a gross of light and skin, open bodies,
a wave of color and implication until they are gone.

I know the phallic problems with the carrot are many.
My neighbors at last winter’s snowfall made a snowman
with a two foot erection and a bent female, ass-crack

and all, poised to suck him dry. What is palpable,
striking; plain, evident, obvious is plea-bargained
into a minimal sentence, a line snapped as the unnetted

fish swims free. The girls in my high school classes
see rape everywhere, every male lust a violation,
They Flee From Me for them is not about a man

sleeping with women of the high court, but of a hunter
conquering his prey and then lamenting the capture.
Their reasoning is young, passionate, immense

and I cannot tell them the world does not want to hurt
them. The woman fell asleep, an onlooker was shocked
and wants to charge her exposed vagina with assault.

I hope that made you laugh. It made me laugh.
I saw what sort of speck we are in Discover
magazine: the universe shaped like a vagina,

the “you are here” label pinning our insignificance
to the glossy page. A woman’s cunt is the center
of the world
a film I saw once stated, as a story

is the womb of memory, as words the cells
of any story lawful and petulant and a woman
fell asleep, let us not court her embarrassment,

let this plea be a deep breath, an open letter,
we all come from a dark hole, a fluid universe
all slush, loud-hush, and sweet rushing lullaby

made, held and stroked: a skull resting above ripe fruit.


Jeremy Voigt‘s chapbook is Neither Rising nor Falling and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Post Road, Poet Lore, Cortland Review, among others. He lives in Bellingham, WA with his wife and three kids.