12.2 / FALL/WINTER 2017



Sometimes it feels like I’m collecting you: the ones who chase despair.
The ones who carve into the skin of their own minds like cutters, mining every hurt into a wound.

Sometimes I know this carving is involuntary; a chemical reaction.
But other times, I think you’re crying wolf.

Other times, I think I’ve managed to collect the ones who make a habit out of melancholy.
Who dig at every psychic paper cut until it’s deep enough to bleed.

To what end, this gathering? To what end, our parallel pursuits?
And as I pocket them (pocket you) one by one by one…who do I become?

[Mary the Jewess, first alchemist of the West. They say she coined this axiom: “One becomes Two, out of Two becomes Three, and out of the third comes the One as the Fourth.”]


Mother. Lover. Friend.

You twitch in your barstool when I turn my body sideways to face yours, the nervous undulation of your shoulders snakelike, minus grace. I can’t recall the last time you said good when asked how are you?

Mother. Lover. Friend.

You tell me: I just want to live my life and have some fun; I just wish things weren’t so goddamn complicated. And now I know you well enough to hear the whistle of this lie against your teeth. Know you well enough to see that you have grown dependent on them—scraps of pain you cling to. Tattered sails run up against the wind. Know you well enough to wonder if you’ve figured out, by now, my secret: my ready needle, spools of thread, too much canvas; practiced fingers, idle hands; this itching…

Mother. Lover. Friend.

I know you well enough because yours is a clinging touch I’ve felt since birth: a touch that demands to be seen hurting. A touch that turns my stomach like a corkscrew, twisting me until love-hunger fades into a nauseous joy; until my cheeks begin to glow and belly swells and eyes spark white with secret pride and—again, again, again—I carry you.

My Mother opens up the wound (my Friend ((my Love) will widen) will stretch)

And as I carry you, who might I become?

[Echo in the woods, seeing a slice of daylight cutting through the darkest pines, falls silent for a moment. Looks around. Considers her options.]


I’d like to think that chasing pain is pointless.
I’d like to think that chasing pain is poetry.
I’d like to think that I’m an empathetic person.
I’d like to think in terms of scales: to understand where I would fall:


[One = Two = Three = (Four = ONE)]


Or perhaps, with grace, we’d fall into a different myth.

With grace, your nervous shoulders would stop shuddering and slither with some purpose.

Perhaps, with grace, you’d be the ouroboros. With grace, you’d be the snake eating its tail, chasing demise, chasing a self distinguished, wounded, marked by it’s own teeth.

With grace, yours could be a body carved again, again, again. Soul mined deep; flesh punctured and swallowed, fulfilling your own hunger to be seen.

Unmaking and mending your own skin, your own sails.

Your handsome serpentine cheeks flushed, aglow, your scale-slick belly swelling, swelling—
   —carrying  yourself.
     Mother.  Lover.  Friend.

(And then who would I be?)


I am Cleopatra, maker of metals, taking up her pen.
I am Cleopatra, expert distiller, turning notions into gold.
I am Cleopatra, ever practical, engineering the alembic.
I am Cleopatra, your creator—sketching, smug—
    —writing herself (myself) into
       the warp
           your coil.

Lauren Westerfield is a poet, essayist and editor from the Northern California coast. Her essays have appeared in The Los Angeles TimesThe Butter, RedividerRevolution House and The Rumpus, where she has also served as an Assistant Essays Editor. Lauren is a Centrum Fellow and MFA candidate in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Idaho. She currently co-hosts the POP-UP PROSE reading series in Moscow, Idaho, and is the Nonfiction Editor of FUGUE.

12.2 / FALL/WINTER 2017