Bystander By Jeni Prater

Bystander

She couldn’t walk a straight
line stone-cold sober, always tracing
with bright eyes salt-marbled swirls
pressed into sidewalks. And now, strungout
and stringing together lines
in her head, she was
uninterruptible.

The still nights were the most
worrisome. Her evidence rose
above her in streaks — telling,
morphing into
clouds, conspicuous,
untaken.

To let herself be seen, she said,
was to say something.

To hold her was to hold glossy cortisol
sweat; to know where her mind goes
when she reaches for skin
was to watch her slip
through fingers, unreluctantly—
to watch smoke sink into lungs and
beg for a witness to write
it all down.

By Jeni Prater

Biography:

Jeni is a queer sexual violence and disability activist and works at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center on the intersection of these. While she prefers to collect books and elephant trinkets, she has been published in “Of/When,” “Spark,” “Zetetic” and was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize at Wellesley College, her alma mater.

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