we hear the man shouting before we hear
the prelude, and then a scuffle of guitar
against the sidewalk. downtown denver at 1am
is a sky-wide holler made of men who hurt
women on corners carrying their music-makers
in boxes. he screams,
YOU WANNA GO BACK
YOU WANNA GO BACK HUH
YOU WANNA GO
KILL YOURSELF JUST
we see the woman gathering her guitar
back into her box, strapping it to her back
so that her spine carries every string.
she makes herself a hearse where music
goes to rest, and then be reborn.
too many women are turned coffin to carry
all the saddest sounds in the world, but she smiles
when dorothy buys her a milkshake and gifts it to her
like a grail, an offering, a secret between hurt women
who have been stripped of sound by men’s fingers
only to make more noise when you give them a proper
vessel. or carrier. and are we all not made to be carried?
how callused are her gracious hands? how many songs
live inside that box on her back? how deeply she drinks
from the styrofoam cup as she crosses the sidewalk
in search of napkins and company. milk has spilled
onto her guitar case, drips in white sugar rivers down
to her tennis shoes. a number is called from the window
of the burger joint, and dorothy becomes carrier of warmth
in a paper bag passed to the woman’s (gracious/callused/carrying) hands.
she laughs and says,
“thank you / thank you /
shit got so wild back there /
i left him / i left him after
three months / been single
years before he came / he
tried to steal my guitar”
i call her hon . a word that denotes sweetness.
you okay out here, hon? like sugar on the air.
she tells us,
“oh yeah / oh yeah he’s just hurt but /
he’ll have a bed to sleep in tonight / and
lemme tell ya / being crazy now isn’t
as / fun / as it was at twenty-five”
dorothy tells her no man is worth a lick of pain,
and the woman nods and nods, blond curls
bobbing beneath a baseball cap.
her laugh is a car crash in her chest,
her mouth two thin tracks of railroad – she is made
of things that carry and carry and carry.
“i’m gonna make this milkshake spill /
a motif on my guitar case / some kind
of artsy thing”
and she whirls her fingers round and round
until i imagine paint springing from beneath
her fingerprints and marking the case with bold lettering of:
THIS IS MINE / THIS IS MINE AND IT IS NOT YOURS
O ENVIOUS LOVER WHO SHRIEKS TO THE MOON
SHE WILL NOT HEAR YOU / FOR SHE IS MINE / TOO
SHE WILL NOT HURT ME / FOR I AM HERS / TOO
By Harper Russet
Harper Russet (she/her or they/them pronouns, interchangeable) is a 24-year-old butch lesbian poet and novelist from Utah. Every poem she writes is an argument with gender, the country, and so many gods. Videos of her work can be found on Write About Now. You can also find Harper on Twitter and Patreon.