SPOTLIGHT: Monster Parts by Samari Zysk

when i told her/when i tell you about her

for mutti

my mother put her face against my shoulder, clutched at me. it was agony in its miracle. her body shook against mine.

for a while, we shivered at the same frequency. it was astounding that our harmony didn’t make the lightbulbs in her bedroom explode into a starry sky. it was incredible that she believed me.

and yet, no. it wasn’t astounding or incredible.

i drove back home in the worst rain of the summer — it was a cinematographer’s dream of atmospheric storytelling.

when i reached my apartment building, i checked my phone. my mom had texted me.

i got my things and am on my way to a hotel.

my fingers shook as blood labored up to their tips.

if we thought of ourselves as just a collection of blood cells in motion, wouldn’t that make living seem so much more beautiful? constant movement, up and down your torso, your arms, a gentle, perennial tsunami of life. uncontrollable.

i flexed my fingers until the purple beneath my skin melted into white and felt my shoulders shake as i cried.

that’s so good to hear, lmk when you get there, okay?

my mother bought a vegetarian slice and an IPA from the pizza shop i recommended her. her face brimmed with life and redness while we waited for her order beneath the pastel rainbow of my umbrella. she smiled at me.

what is beauty? by assigning that word to anything, it could be argued that we imply performance — we place an audience upon a subject. within that framework, it’s cruel to call something beautiful, because then they can no longer exist as only what they actually are.

but by the same token, we can also free something by calling it beautiful if we define beauty as honesty.

when i tell you my mother was beautiful then, so alive and safe beneath my umbrella, little tears sliding around her eyes, i mean it to acknowledge her in her entirety. i saw her in that moment as nothing other than who she was.

both the audience and the subject are freed by honesty. the word doesn’t matter — i could use any adjective, but beauty freed both of us that day.

i held her hand as we walked back to the car.

refusing to be diagnosed with anorexia for five years

is there another way to say this.
tell me honestly — i don’t know where to begin.
maybe if i do, the words will falter and pause and land
somewhere i know, some clearing in the brush that i’ve charted, that i
can call by name. i’m lost. words swarm a half-eaten moon.

i am not tall enough, i am not big enough to hold everything that’s screaming
to be let in. my hood is drawn against a hurting, bruising sky. how do i begin, how
do i apologize. how do i know that this will answer to a name at all.
these are wild things, these words. these are things with teeth.
i keep walking. my wicker basket swings and swings, threatening to fly away.

red red red, says the ground when i look around. my cloak has grown so
heavy. everything wants to move, and i do not. everything has teeth except for
me. red red red. my hood falls over my eyes, over my mouth so that it’s all it can
say. all i can say. all i can say is red red red. and it’s not enough. can’t
there be another way to say this.

a bone. another rib on the path. a sternum. my hip bone. i am not alone.
who am i. red red red. apples in my wicker basket. there has to be another way
to say this. i’m lost. i can’t go any faster, everything is far away and i’m so tired.
the eyes in the darkness are mine. bread in my wicker basket. the swishing tail
in the darkness is mine. red red red. the teeth prodding at the sky are mine.

how do i begin when i don’t know the way. how do i begin when i don’t know which path i walk.

how do i begin when my body was never only mine.

how do i begin.



i want to go somewhere quiet, where
my voice unravels at my feet
i want my language to come apart so i can
put it back together again

i didn’t ask for this, any
words on my tongue weren’t there when i started
my language did not originate from beneath my teeth
between my tongue and cheek
i hate having to speak to exist

the torah says that the world began with the words “let there be light”
but is there no worse crime, or greater, more devious fallacy
than comparing me to g-d?
i can’t possibly begin anything with words

don’t tell me we were all created in g-d’s image
i wasn’t created, i was remembered
i woke up and locked eyes in the darkness
i began having forgotten and lived my life remembering how to talk

i want to forget again, my words are foreign
poking at the inside of my cheeks, rising like daisies in early spring

this language wasn’t meant for me
only with obsolescence can i possibly reclaim my voice

i want to return to the place where language is becoming, where
i don’t have to forget who i am in order to speak
i remember who i am in a language that is screaming in its birth


do you remember how your skin creased around the knife?
part of the story is what comes next

do you ever regret telling it?

you’re coming around — you tore the gravity off your mouth
clever little fish, unhooking

what are you looking for in this world of cast-
off lace, eggshells breaking, becoming smaller and smaller and
many? remember when you parted the gray walls
to find the sun? remember how you bled pollen and it felt
like a secret when you looked at the teeth in someone’s mouth?

that’s the hook of it, isn’t it?

somehow, your hands can still touch
touch your face, and it feels like witness
witness even now, despite everything, you still
remember how that felt

part of the story is telling it
is that what really comes next?
open your mouth, treat the puncture inside of your cheek
learn the weight of everything without carrying it

gender and sexuality

my eyes pucker like flowers closing at night
sunlight slipped down her nose like a second face

the moment it fell, i tasted honey on my tongue and
she smiled in the shifting shape of a waxing moon

darkness sucked its fingers clean and
spit out the bones —
stars fell with a clatter on the black plate

she said she thought i was beautiful but
i didn’t know what form that word took in her jaw

the water receded within her, something trembled somewhere like an egg hatching
i looked up, even though the lake was staring at me below with its glassy, wanton eye
the night’s belly was swollen from eating the sky

she didn’t hold my hand but the skin prickled on my palm
my eyes shut completely, became flowers; you see, that was the mistake

she pounced like a fox and ran away
with petals in her snarl

but who would stop a fox with petals
between her teeth? such an innocent and
useless prize. i might as well have given them to her
they were only important to me, after all

the darkness slung volleys of wind
my throat rasped with everything i couldn’t see anymore

my eyes died in her mouth anyway. she wouldn’t
think they’re beautiful in daylight
somehow, that’s what i mourn the most: the uselessness of it

if she would have asked, i would have given
her flowers and put them in water so they
could have a home with her
only people who have considered their
flowers appreciate others’

but she didn’t. i would have given them to her
i promised the sky i would give them to her. i would
have given her witness

closed my eyes for her, too
if she’d have seen that it was a living thing and
not something to decorate her incisors

darkness considered me, and lay down behind my body
somewhere, my flowers were dying, my eyes will never quite open all the way

the lake’s eye slid shut


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