I was moving across the country for a man
and a job. The man
happened first and the job followed
which made me lucky.
The girl next to me
rubbed a stick with a roller ball on the end
over her inner wrists, top notes of rancid
butter and sugar complimenting
my Sonoma Blend. The flight attendants
gave a dramatic reading
of each other’s bio: Mark swore by CrossFit
and Candy’s favorite color was clear.
The girl continued applying products,
opening an egg with a mound of mint
lip balm inside, then using her finger
to dab it on her eyebrows,
brushing the little hairs upward
with her nails.
I was probably around her age
when I first shaved all my body hair
using a whole pack of Schick twins
after my friend went with a boy
into the back room of his basement,
where his dad kept the weights.
After, he’d given her a nickname,
something to do with wooly mammoths.
A Merino sheep named Shrek
was a minor story
in the back of my in-flight magazine.
For years he hid in a cave
so he wouldn’t be sheared,
and when he was found was a hero for a day
before he was shaved on live news, enough wool
for twenty men’s suits.
But that’s not where the humiliation ended,
I wanted to lean over and tell the girl,
he was shaved again on an iceberg floating
off the coast of New Zealand.
Of course I didn’t say a word to her,
just kept drinking my shit wine
as we flew over the white puffs
doing the only thing they can do.
There’s a fly in the house I can’t kill.
I won’t know if it’s real until I kill it.
It darts through my periphery as my internet
yogi tells me that a cow
can be an opening. I turn my mat
to face the window
so I can see the tree on fire,
the red maple, but a truck that reads
MOVING? is in the way.
Imagine yourself as a child
watching, says the yogi, which I never
want to remember—
everything I had to watch.
I don’t let her finish.
What she wanted was for me to take up space,
something about reclaiming joy
by thinking of my favorite childhood
TV program. Later, I give it a try
while folding laundry,
The Real Housewives of somewhere
on high volume to dominate
the persistent buzzing
in my ear. A Dwell
magazine placed on the back
of my husband’s shirt
helps me get a proper fold.
Am I taking up space, with the proper fold?
In my house clothes I get on the floor
into extended child’s pose and reach
for the cow opening. I press an ear
to the wood and listen for something
in another room,
in another house. What I hear
is a long conversation about me
that I didn’t begin.
I hear my own voice from a distance:
I don’t want to say the words of what happened.
Some days I’m floating around and don’t know it
until I break the French press again.
Ryann Stevenson‘s first book, Human Resources, is the winner of the 2021 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, selected by Henri Cole. It is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in June 2022. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Bennington Review, Columbia Poetry Review, The Cortland Review, Denver Quarterly, and Kenyon Review, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.