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So, You Think I'm Afraid of You?

    I'm not afraid of you or the black sun.
   I'm not afraid of the colony of ants in my ceiling
   or the displaced persons sleeping in my treehouse.
   I'm not afraid of the rain depluming the clothes from my skin
   as it pelts down hard as hail, hard as a hammer, hard as the shell
   of a musk turtle overturned and unable to right itself.
   I'm not afraid of the dove-colored smoke moving in the air
   in the pattern of a cry for help; in the pattern of waving goodbye.
   I'm not afraid to be ejected from the opera house for
   singing along to the aria about the woman about to hang herself
   because her lover won't convert to her family's religion.
   Or because she is dying of scarlet fever.
   A friend today saying Crazy how the venom stays in the body for
      days
,
   referring to a Tabano fly bite on her foot.
   I'm not afraid of downing a whole bottle of tainted Tabasco
sauce
   or of diving into a gelid and storm-tossed ocean
   where the only people on the beach are lovers
   sequestered in the sand dunes far enough away
   that they would never hear my cries for help.
   It's hard enough to ask a stranger for jumper cables
   or a neighbor to water your lawn, in case of severe drought,
   while you go away for a few weeks to fat camp,
   in hopes of coming home thinner. Some men
   are tender and say it just means there is more of you to
      love
.
   Other men are controlling and say Don't eat--! and don't
      eat--!
   Others have an arrogant, elevated, and erroneous sense
   of empathy and offer How about I drive alongside you in my
      truck
   while you huff it around the block four or five times
? While
      driving
   they are drinking beer, eating pork rinds and ranch-flavored
   corn nuts and listening to the radio with the heater on,
   as you jog in threadbare shoes, in the frigid air,
   like someone being relocated,
   forced to traverse for days across the Trail of Tears.
   But that is another opera in progress.
   I'm not afraid of progress; it's just that I see so little
of it.
   And I will understand you calling me out
   for using the Trail of Tears in a way that diminishes
   the devastation it was for those who walked it
   and those who starved and collapsed along the way.
   I'm not afraid to apologize for that.
   I'm not afraid to tell you that it's physically impossible
   for a pig to raise its head to the sky.
   I'm not afraid of the sky.

JOANNE DOMINIQUE DWYER is the author of Belle Laide (Sarabande, 2013). She is a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, a Bread Loaf Scholarship, and the Anne Halley Poetry Prize.

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Author:Dwyer, Joanne Dominique
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:May 1, 2018
Words:544
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