Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Pennsylvania. Xe is the author of the chapbooks body in motion (perhappened press) and Lexicon of Future Selves (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press) as well as two microchapbooks; xer work has appeared in AGNI, Cotton Xenomorph, Whale Road Review, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing about gender, science, space, and unusual connections. Find xer on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.
My memory is a sieve. There is so much I don’t remember.
The worst sentence you can say to me is, “What do you remember?”
You want to know? Fine. Blood spattering newspaper,
crouched at the top of the stairs—this I remember.
Sitting on the front porch, breathing slow, alone and happy;
the shriek and slam against an invader—I remember.
The itchy strife of poison ivy on my eyelids,
that’s an experience I’ll never not remember.
Curled up in bed, dry sobbing, hollow, wanting an end,
too many teenage days I don’t want to remember.
It’s always the memories I want to suppress that stick.
My name, meaning pearl: the way an oyster remembers.
The Form Gives Me the Options M and F
And my gender is a dinosaur or an anglerfish or a rocket lifting off or may
-Be other things I love. Is what you love what you are? I think
So / many people look at the wrong thing. It’s about where you place
Emphasis, like a perfect caesura or grace note or angle or—I explain and
None of my words come out / right. Is my gender something I am
Calling for or something calling for me? It’s a siren / song, a circling shark, an
Emptiness so vast and deep I think I could fall into it and never come out.
You used to dream of being a synesthete when you weren’t dreaming of being a dragon or a dinosaur. These days you can’t remember how it felt to dream or to slurp grape Kool-Aid from a plastic pitcher or sit along the grassy third base line and cheer. The old burns mottling your forearms remind you to be more careful around the oven. The smell of new car is the strangest of adult pleasures. You borrow twenty bucks from a friend for an aquarium ticket and wing it back over as you watch the moon jellies pulse. There’s something you love about the hush. You think of yourself mostly as unemployable, which is something you should work on. All your friends are getting married and having kids. You sit down to write a poem and remember you never did the dishes. Light hangs in the sky after midnight now. There are no fireflies on this side of the world. You never kept them in jars as a kid, but you let them land so lightly on your skin. The bananas for breakfast are starting to blacken. The hardest part of growing up so far is seeing your dreams shrink.
This year I learned about carcinization,
a form of convergent evolution in which
creatures independently evolve into crabs.
Something about that carapace makes Nature
giddy, circling back to it over and over;
it’s similar to how I act in anxiety, looping
like the curves of a hermit crab’s shell
and furling in on myself—wound
tight and jerking to one side, then another,
like a crab scuttling its way across the sand.
Carcinization seems to have occurred in at least
five different species including the hermit crab,
or crabs that evolved from them. As a rule,
hermit crabs are soft-shelled and spiraled, bodies
made to latch onto external frames. They have
to find larger shells as they grow, expanding support
to match their new needs. On any given day,
I have friends I can call when I’m falling
into a cage of my own making. Carcinization
is one of Nature’s attempts to make a shape
that works, whether the body is hard or soft,
whether it needs a shell to stay safe, or not.
The body keeps trying to twist itself into
something new and different. It keeps trying.