by MARIJEAN ELIZABETH
The Screaming Void
We are shaped by what sees us. My whole life I’ve felt more seen by places than people, which is why my skin crawls to get out of this town, this state. I want to be seen by other things because here is too small for me. For years you promised we’d leave Indiana, and I married you with that promise in your mouth.
But like a nurse who knows the child better than the mother, Indiana, wounded Indiana, cradled me with her scarred hands, what was left of them, and crooned, “I see you. You’re going to be ok.”
also: “get out of here.”
I’m Not a Beach Person
Until I met the ocean I thought the beach meant the silty grit of sand, crusted with seaweed, broken glass of Lake Erie.
Piles of mussel shells. I thought it smelled like rotting fish, looked like E.coli warnings. I thought it meant stretches of empty shoreline, even in midsummer, because no one goes to this beach anymore.
So when I saw the shimmer of the Indian Ocean with its turquoise incandescence and its sparks of phosphorescence and its ghost crabs and its cream-white sand, milky way sprayed across the indigo sky, I understood.
What I still didn’t understand:
I was the ocean.
We’d been married less than two weeks when you walked by my tender feast to the glaring screen in the back room; holed yourself up to win imaginary battles, and I could hear the armor clank from the kitchen. We didn’t share any meals around a table after that.
We’d been married less than four months when you feasted on Robin Thicke’s delectable women, blurred lines, you ate up the bodies with your eyes in the next room over, while I, still in your line of sight, prepared dinner over the stove.
You left trails all over your chat history. Your meal preferences: anything from a box. Your women: clickable; planar.
So I razed my inner contours, filled my wells with earth, tried to flatten myself to fit:
I will be consumable. Saleable, craigslist-personals-
I disappeared and my body emerged, the shell of a cicada after the cicada is gone.
And there I stood. With lines through my spirit like tines of a fork dragged through dirt; raking off the topsoil. Readied and emptied. Readied and tilled.
When I thought the scream inside me was growing so loud I couldn’t hear over the shriek I’d walk the hedgerow next to the highway near our duplex: there behind the barbed wire was a pasture where something was still alive: brown prairie grass. Content cows, land rolling and fragrant, the creek running through it overgrown with wild roses, with the sound of a spring, with rolling red berries, with black-eyed Susan, with goldenrod and milkweed and chicory.
(That’s what I was supposed to be. Hallowed, not hollow.)
But fields and bodies alike can be pieced and parceled and sold.
Land meant for feasts. Leeched.
to grow beans that are made into plastic and corn that is made into cow feed and fuel – that’s to
replace the petroleum, which is used to make everything else.
You are what you eat:
We all need to be seen, and the only thing left to see me was this dirt.
You made me a monocrop, you
walked by the table I spread, you
spurned the feast I made with my hands, you
planted me with doubts, with assumptions, you
Riddled me with fears, addled my brain, when I
couldn’t stand it anymore I
tried to leave but
you always stopped me in the doorway with
So I didn’t. I stood there in the threshold
you never carried me over,
trying to plant
my healing hands
into the soil of our
futures, trying to
dry riverbed that
our love was built out of, I
wanted to run but I
was charged to stay
we know that love doesn’t
work that way
until the desperation rose to such a pitch that
it gave into
balled like a bolus,
Like mandrake, throwing
pent up poison at the walls
the day they
tried to break
the bones in your face
your shoulders, built like a doorway,
like a field.
When I was 23 my father gave me away.
Passed from one hand to the next, I was the one who paid the price.
MariJean Elizabeth is an ex-evangelical, decolonizing writer residing in the Midwest with her two daughters. She can be found on Instagram @regressada.