Three Poems from Rachel Bunting
Self Portrait in Letters and Scars
starburst, right upper lip
It was like flying, finally, for a fraction of a second.
Then the world came rushing up to catch me.
I kissed the hot asphalt of our suburban road.
My father, fresh off a week’s worth of swing shifts
at the barracks, carried me the half-block home.
minus sign, left index finger
Steak knife. Soapy water.
My practical mother taught me not
to reach my hands into the sink blind.
zipper, left jawline
Faded. My skin fused
like welding, like magic.
Which story do you want
to hear? He was only trying
to make me. Something.
strawberry static, left shin
She was two years old, a stumbling train
toward the street. One clumsy leap up
the stairs and the blood ran in streams
into my shoes but her fine head was safe
safe safe on the sidewalk.
flower petals, lower right back
The rocks bit my skin, their starry mouths hungry
in the summer night. I did not feel them at all,
so afraid of the stranger’s body pushing against mine.
Later the pain kept me up nights. All kinds of it.
My body is always in bloom.
There is magic on the carousel. The horses, impaled
upon their metal poles, slide up and down with faces
frozen in a grimace. There – see her? There is a child
gripping in her fists the reins of that giant palomino.
My child. Laughter splits her face—I can almost see
the sun rising behind her eyes. She is a warm spring
in the woods, her sweet voice rushing over me—me,
a series of dull rocks in the water. When I take her
in my arms, she does not complain. This proves she
is mine. She would not let me otherwise. But she only
laughs some more, burrows her fingers into my neck
and bounces against my wrists. There is magic here
with her in my arms, my body warming against hers,
the rabbity smell of a tired child. The whole world
slows down just for us and I remember her round
face falling backward out the open window, a flower
closing in upon itself in the evening air. I am going
to change the ending, I will always catch her now.
Answer: Your familiar face emerging from the third stall in the second floor math hall bathroom, a curl of smoke still rising over the walls.
Answer: Your whispered voice asking for answers during the Earth Science midterm.
Answer: The mix tape you made me, now taped over and taped over again.
Answer: Your warm palm pressing a folded note into mine in the seconds-long passing between classes.
Answer: The way every note started with “What’s up?”
Answer: The greeting on your answering machine, 30 seconds of Courtney Love’s gutted voice.
Answer: Your thin fingers tipping our plastic lunch trays onto the growing pile in the cafeteria.
Answer: The same Taco Bell order every Friday night, 17 Taco Supremes, hard shell, extra fire sauce, and a single order of cinnamon twists.
Answer: Every chewed edge of every pencil you ever owned.
Answer: Locker 116, combination 26-32-16.
Answer: Your Daria keychain.
Answer: A single summer, every night spent walking the riverbank, tracing the same steps up and down crossing from one town into the next, like walking a meditation labyrinth.
Answer: When you stopped calling.
Answer: When I stopped calling.
Do you remember the question?
Rachel Bunting lives and writes in South Jersey, somewhere between the Delaware River and the Pine Barrens. Her poems can be found in online and print journals such as Boxcar Poetry Review, Weave Magazine, Relief Journal and Apparatus Magazine. She is preparing for her second poetry-related tattoo. She is a terrible dancer.