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.