BY THE LAKE
I went outside to smoke a bowl
(because my boyfriend was still sleeping
because the sunrise was magical
because I had no real reason, just desire).
While I was standing out there, my coat wrapped
tight around me and smoke wrapped
loosely around my vision, I saw the geese.
Well, I heard them first—outraged honks
and splashing water and the beating of wings.
Chasing, fighting, they would rise in the air
like deities and fall back into the water
like bullets. Finally getting high, I start to think of
my students, all of whom know what a gun is.
I feel strangely exposed,
rummaging in the basement
of my grandparents’ home.
I can hear the bones
of this house shifting.
In the dusty corner on a dusty stool
is a dusty book. I blow
off the age and see (in my grandmother’s
handwriting): Book of the Dead.
There’s a greasy fingerprint
on the first page.
The salt sucked at his feet,
leaving suction cup blisters.
He pushed at the water,
and it pushed him back.
It blew through his bones,
buried smog in his pores,
soaked oil into his skin.
Under his control
the boat lurched,
but never tipped.
When he came home, my grandmother
sat her husband down and licked the salt out of him.
She spat it all into a bucket.
After, she added water
to the salt and poured it on the flowers.
My grandmother woke with salt
crystallized on her cheeks,
Grainy under her fingers.
She put on her thin slippers
and walked through her silent home.
She avoided the pictures on her wall.
She opened the door to her yard,
cringed at the sunlight,
and called her remaining children.
When she had nothing to do,
she sang the songs her mother
sang to her during the war.
My grandfather listened silently,
just outside the room.
There are no gravestones
in La Tremblade, France.
I turn the rasping pages,
hoping the memories will leak
onto fingers, so I can suck them off.
WHAT I AM TOLD
Girls don’t do that.
They don't play,
they don't speak,
they don't imagine.
They never have moon soaked skin
or feelings that run off in rivers.
They never have dirt in their scrapes
and bruises on their knuckles.
Stop, or else no one will want you.
women need to enjoy sex,
but not as much as you do.
Women need to laugh,
but not like that. Laugh
meekly, your emotions folded up.
Don't laugh loudly from your stomach.
If you have to cry, make sure you don’t
scrunch up your face and wipe that snot
dripping out of your nose.
It’s cool that you don’t care,
but you really should shave.
Women don't have fuzzy legs and
they don't have oil in their hair
because they forgot to shower.
just try a little harder
and then you will be liked.
The broken mirror reflects back
a multitude of faces.
None of them look like me.
We will be what we want to be.
I will be what I want to be.
I will imagine galaxies,
soak my skin with emotion,
and drink strength.
I speak the language
of the flowers that grow
in the cracks on the sidewalk.
Hannah Rousselot is a queer DC based poet. She has been writing poetry since she could hold a pencil and has always used poems as a way to get in touch with her emotions. She writes poetry about the wounds that are still open, but healing, since her childhood and the death of her first love. Her work has appeared in Voices and Visions magazine, Panoply zine, Postcard Poems and Prose, and Parenthesis Magazine. In addition to writing poetry, Hannah Rousselot is also an elementary school teacher. She teaches a poetry unit every January, and nothing brings her more joy than seeing the amazing poems that children can create. You can explore more of her work at facebook.com/hmrpoetry.