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room for the holy spirit :: hayley brooks

by on April 9, 2017

I took the late train into the city
on a Friday. I am still learning to
say no. I want my expression to
speak for me, but I am young
and female and that is usually
translated as an invitation. If I
had said no, I might’ve tried the
boldness of expanding, spread
my legs and watch him shrink.
Instead I whispered sure,
curled my regret into a quiet sigh.

I have known this swell before,
in a cathedral built in the
name of a male God,
in his voyeurism replacing every mirror.
He asked me why I was headed
to Chicago. I said to visit
my girlfriend.

His shock hung from his mouth for
a while. Then, his comments how is a girl like
you a lesbian? have you ever even tried to
be attracted to a man?
ballooned between
us.

I know where on my body his eyes
landed each time they moved.
He asked if when I say girlfriend,
I am with her, like physically?
I tipped the glow of my phone
away from him as I texted her,
thought about catching her
eyes, what wholeness lies there.

He told me, you can’t get offended at
what I’m about to say.
And I am back at the
cathedral, swallowed. He said,
you really shouldn’t be with a woman.

I try to breathe a sigh so loud
it pushes him off the seat. I imagine
her head on my lap, stroking her hair,
her hand trailing my thigh.

I went to prom with a boy.
I wept to the girl I loved
that I didn’t have a date
and he asked me a few days later.
He tried to slow dance with me and
I scanned the room, looking at the girls
pressed up against the boys and
wondered if the room was getting bigger,
if I had been emptied.

I apologized the first time a girl kissed
me. She said let’s try it again. And I
bloomed, my fullness abounded.
It was God, I knew, awakening in my body.

I used to keep a stock
of male names to answer sleepover
questions. I feigned a pavilion of
nerves, prayed for a different body
at the altar erected
in yahweh’s name at asherah’s expense.
I maimed everything holy
in me for patriarchy.

Until
I kissed a girl.
Until that sanctity between mouths
rebuilt asherah’s altar,
until I could
beam my fullness outward.

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