ON FEAR AND BIOLOGY
tell me a story about someone who was never afraid—
never buzzed bees through their fingertips trying to create honey,
someone who never got monsters stuck in between the layers of their skin.
what is it like to not share your head with an overgrown garden?
in biology, we learned about fungi that could take over a bug’s brain,
make it climb up and up and up, and then die, give its body over
to something else. i wonder if this is what they’re doing to me,
filling my head with dreams of success so they can eat me alive later.
i wonder, on my worst days, on days i don’t so much hate myself
but forget i exist at all, on days i bleed to remember i’m human—
i wonder if this is what it’s like to be a ghost, or something else dead but still breathing.
this constant wanting to break things to show you’re still around.
today, i noticed spider webs in the corners of my room, or maybe cobwebs.
i want to make a metaphor out of the interconnectedness of it all
but i can’t find clean clothes or my hairbrush or motivation
and no one seems to notice the cuts on my hands.
yesterday, i watched a little girl skip until her step broke and her knees hit the ground.
when she thought no one was looking, she did not cry. she got up.
she kept playing. i wonder if i was this. i wonder if i still am.
i wonder if it matters, if anyone can see me anyway.
last week, i told myself i’d watered the garden for the last time. i told the same lie today.
i wonder how long i can hold on to the same thing that’s consuming me.
this overgrown garden is weed-infested. in biology, we learned about non-native plants.
i’m not sure if the weeds are the native plants. maybe the flowers are the invaders.
tell me a story about a kid who isn’t afraid of monsters.
or, maybe, tell me about a kid who doesn’t feel anything.
i’m both some days. some days i’m neither and nothing else,
dead but still breathing, weeds bursting from my fingertips,
and fungi, growing from the scrapes on my knees.
i’m of the belief that anything is beautiful if you learn enough about it—
so i buy medical scalpels.
i start with the thickest parts. thighs, stomach, i peel back layers.
everything i ate for dinner, sadness from two months ago, anger from middle
coiled into thicker skin, scars,
puckered and white.
i sew myself back up. new scars form. i pull the stitches out too soon.
they say hurting yourself can be a twisted form of self-care.
i cut open my chest next.
find lungs shriveled with second-hand smoke
that escapes when i cut them open.
my lungs deflate. i fill them with dirt and flower seeds.
the smoke makes my eyes sting so i close them. keep cutting.
i find my heart—
surprisingly whole for all they told me to find my other half.
i don’t cut further. i don’t want to understand this.
my chest is hard to put back together. i rearrange the bones
but it’s hard to put the breasts back. i decide i won’t miss them,
bury them in the dirt. maybe they’ll make good fertilizer.
i pull the stitches out too soon.
they say i don’t do this for attention, but i am a scientist.
all i want is the fame of figuring myself out.
i cut my arms next. open veins, find
close them. collect the blood to paint with later.
move on to my hands. these are my weapons.
i sew them quickly, let them heal properly. i will need them.
they say i can be everything. but i know the great secret—i can also be nothing.
maybe at the same time.
i open my head. clean slice around, mind the hair,
dig into the soft and slimy brain tissue. here is everything.
i’m going to be famous. i’ve figured it out.
i try to tell them. i open my mouth
but flowers are growing. thorns pressing against my windpipe,
and there are vines in my voice box.
© 2016 Ember Plummer
The Big Windows Review 7 (Spring 2016)