Stina French
February 2022
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Stina French is a college instructor and performer who specializes in vulnerable and graphic representations of sexuality, repression, and the healing process. She writes erotic mystery, magic-realist flash memoir, and poetry. She’s featured in many Colorado venues, and her work has appeared in Jen Pastiloff's Manifest Station, Heavy Feather Review, South Broadway Ghost Society, Punch Drunk Press, among others. She leads monthly generative writing workshops and hosts the event, "listen to your skin: an erotic open-mic series" (last Sunday of each month). She wears welts from the Bible Belt, and is currently editing Take The Fruit, Flood The Desert: A Religious Trauma Abuse Anthology.  She's working on a manuscript, Also Arc, Also Offering, a Southern-queerdo memoir. Find her on IG at @sister_rainbow_scream or visit her website, sisterrainbowscream.com.

YOU CARVE CHANNELS

 

You look at the edges of a patch of eczema. This patch is on your elbow.  You are sitting in the classroom. Slipping sleeve up. The picking is happening without your noticing. You use the corner of a fingernail to lift the flakes. Under the rim. Remove them.  Like this can heal you. Like they won’t be back. Like it won’t bleed. It pops off. Or it clings and takes live skin with it, a little red line, leading to the dead zone. It will become dead now, too.  It’s hard to stop the deading. 

 

It’s just you and this opening.  You and this tidying up.  Until you hear a classmate snicker.  Shame is many times your own weight. It crawls on your neck, your back.  You shove the sleeve down.  Try not to cry.  You fail.  Try to dry up.  You pray that God will cure your skin. You don’t want to be this transparently deciduous.  You vow you’ll never pick at yourself again.

 

You look at the edges of a patch of eczema.  This patch is on your finger.  You are sitting in the cafeteria.  You look at the edges of the wound.  An angry little mouth, a crack in the side of your pointer-finger joint.  It hurts to write, hardened flesh pulling at the too-new. A valley.  You catch its edge and lift.  Like this can heal you. Like it won’t be back. Like it’s not bleeding. It comes free. Or it clings and takes live skin with it. It will become dead now, too.  It’s hard to remove a wound without making a bigger wound. Your notebook is dotted with tiny red rorschachs.  You vow to never pick at yourself again.

 

You look at the edges of a patch of eczema.  This one is on your knee.  You are sitting in the bathroom after school. When you lift the edge of one of the scales, the whole area comes off, all at once, and it’s bloody. For a moment it looks like an honest kid injury.  Just a fall off a bike.  You promise never to pick at yourself again. 

 

You stare at your face in the mirror.  You’re crying.  You’re sad about the picking but you’re also teaching yourself to cry just so.  Different kinds of cries. You want to make an art out of crying. The water as it leaves you, it carves channels. When you scratch your own face, under the eyes where the tears are streaming, you don’t know if you’re doing it as part of the act.  You are lost in the act.   It wears grooves into you, this artful pain.  

 

 

SHE SPEAKS WITH WASPS

 

I. What The Girl Said After She Grew Up

 

They thought you were dancing

when you were two 

when the yellowjackets 

swarmed you 

when they were eating each other 

inside the trap of marriage 

like angry wasps in a log

drug across a yard cluttered 

with too many pieces of dead wood

not enough flowers

dad's affairs

mother's failure to have an orgasm.

 

You tried to pile them in whatever order

a toddler could muster

and out they came

The wasps

not your parents

who were watching from the window 

in one of their last shared moments 

that wasn't a fight--a sort of gift you gave them

In return for your life–

a sort of gift they gave you, you guess: 

a show you put on

 

No one was coming to collect you

No one to put you back in

 

You’ve crawled into so many traps 

of your own making

wanting to feel nails pull stingers

rub meat tenderizer and tobacco chaw

onto the screech of your skin

 

The louder the pain sings

put a beat to it

Dance harder

Let everyone go on thinking 

you've got this

Say, "it's harder for them to hit you 

when you're dancing," but no

really, it's not

 

No one’s watching 

No one will save you

but dance anyway

Dance anyway

 

II. What The Wasps Said To The Girl Who’s Still In There

 

We fear you will come and drag us away again

if we buzz too much

if we allow ourselves to want 

to break your skin

There was no way we could stay 

hidden in the woodpile forever 

Your small arms were stronger than they should have been 

and you didn't give up 

where another girl might have

 

But listen, we have a right to be here

We had to let you know that

We left you alive

And now: we are the Girlkeeper! 

 

You don't have to hide to be held

We got you 

(but hide if you want to) 

You don't have to dance to be seen

We see you

(but dance if you want to) 

Let us make your skin holy 

(listen to your skin) 

Let us make something we can live inside

(this poem on this paper: 

what you chewed 

and spit out to soothe)

 

We, too, know something 

of Poetry

We also regurgitate our homes

But you keep forgetting we ain’t bees

We don’t do a cute waggle dance 

to navigate flowers

We dance to breathe

There is no royal jelly 

made out of flower cum 

in the bees’ guts

There is no honey in this poem

 

We chew our victims to paste 

and feed them to our young

we lick digestive secretions off them to survive

We are not pretty

We are carnivorous

like you

 

We are family

We are all going to die

When we get caught in traps, listen–

sometimes, we eat each other in there

Sometimes, we help each other out 

but none of us makes it out of here alive

You are tender meat

but you are not a trap

It’s not your job to clear the traps.

 

Listen to your skin: 

when it stings like that

when no one is there to stop the stinging: 

sing over the sting. 

When you need hiving 

we will follow

But kindly stop flipping 

every goddamn log in the yard 

like somebody’s paying you 

to organize the forest

 

Girl:

we give you permission 

to swarm