How to disable a girl, an Erasure
after Mary Karr’s The Burning Girl
went back and forth
burning. The tonic took the ruby sun.
> we sprawled along.
We breathed alongside
arms all scarred
with marks she’d made herself —
She sat in flames
impolite. Later, we’d all think
touched no aspect of ourselves. I
the awkward guest.
An almost ghost. Her mother,
the edges of herself; smudging.
Having seen that I testify:
it was ocean endless. She emptied herself
into that blazing
with all her slender.
Dwindling. Her father the devoted king burned
as we all watched. I was
the Friend insisting
Doctors, I forced her sadness
that her arms were twigs scissored
until she slid.
gone. She was the tower
We all burned.
strike through/I semi-colon/ I edge/You 35,000 feet/I runway/
The trouble/with runways/ is (one of us)/always leaving/
I pills/You shotgun/You cartographer brain/I missing book/ The trouble
with poetry is (that you never know how) the readers will take it/
I pacemaker/You shocked heart/Some say (I am not) a cardiologist/You bipolar/
I breakdowns/You childhood/trauma/I childhood trauma/Some say
(I should have more) self-worth/You brilliant/I brilliant/You checkmate/
I pawn/You mistrust/I mistress/You chrysalis/You always becoming/
(you said) I clock/always waiting/for its maker/(I dream you) home/
You marathon runner/I stopwatch/I stop/You come (inside now)/ I
secret cavity/I (definition of) longing/You syntax (I memorize)/You drifting/
I pulse/You barometric pressure/I migraine (disorder)/I host/ You disease/
You slight of hand/I awe/I awe/I freefalling (you cliff)/You sky (that sees)
I’m bleeding/You hemorrhage/I’m the band-aid/(quick fix)/
Natalie E. Illum is a poet, disability activist and singer living in Washington DC. She was a founded board member of mothertongue, an LGBTQA open mic that lasted 15 years. She is currently a Best New Poets, Pushcart Prize, and Best of the Net nominee. Natalie also enjoys Joni Mitchell, whiskey and giraffes.