Georgianna Van Gunten
I have three sisters who are in a bedroom and just waking up
each of them
have entered their own houses, gated yards, small cells, thick swamps.
I am a storm cell moving over a city
a thunderstorm in the beginning of summer
And I am giant swelling
huge bursts of electricity traveling through my belly.
I am not low enough yet
to be perceived as a threat
to the fragile pink blossoms on trees
the budding plants that have just pushed their heads past the first layer
of dark, wet soil.
I don’t need to decide where I am going
I need to let these swirls of grey inside me build
Burst open like a sac of mantis eggs scattering
to the pressurized atmosphere.
My first sister is named Day and Night
Dia Y Noche by parents who spoke no Spanish, but dreamed
the heat of green and red chilies
in New Mexico thunderstorms
both death and life
The urging of the dusty earth opening its too wide mouth to swallow the rain
and my first sister went inside a hot air balloon and floated away
the illusions she left behind
withered, turned to bone and then to dust
and the wind speckled all my lonely meadows with those remnants.
My second sister is named Zoë
and we were all given bodies that do not work
and we were all delivered invisible pain that did not make sense
and this sister sat and wove herself a pretty cell
made of yarn from some other country where people understand colors
and how to marry disparate threads
how to join
those two ships colliding in the dark until they became one
with which to carry the dead.
And from inside her woven cell
she can still see the world
but colored by neon greens and oranges
magenta softness that pokes at her eyes with its loose hairs.
My third sister is named Elizabeth
but she wants to be called Bella now
and when the name won’t form in my mouth
there is a scary eel that swims from around her head and says
See! You don’t know her
You don’t even know her name!
And I try to snap the eel out of the dark waters around my sister
but it is slippery
and can’t be caught.
This third sister’s home once was a shelter for battered women in Illinois,
my home was once a mental hospital in Albuquerque,
Day and Night’s home was once a darkened bedroom in Texas
and if you wanted to reach her you had to walk down a hallway, the floor covered in unwashed blankets
and she would speak to you from a waterbed
where every movement
produced the sound of sloshing.
Zoe’s home was once a miniature house in Canjilon
filled with tiny furniture and little dolls
each one hosted by her imagination, delicately detailed lives that she led
you could not even move a doll’s little head
without her later noticing.
Rabbits, like the praying mantis, can see 360 degrees
because rabbits have bulging eyes placed towards the top of their heads
and a mantid has a head that swivels all the way around.
The praying mantis is a predator
and the rabbit is an animal of prey
one half of each of my sisters is a rabbit
dear and fierce in their search
for danger in every meadow and garden,
in the bramble of every blackberry bush
and the other half of my sisters is a praying mantis
sacred as the air that scents their praying hands
patient, criminally lethal
able to turn their heads no matter the direction their bodies face
to scan the space
armed and naked inside your quivering heart.
I am neither rabbit nor mantid
I am a halfway place
I am a hallway between two locked doors;
And I am the doors too
and the unknown whatever inside them
the hollowed out space of nothingness that is never seen or felt but acknowledged as existing
I am the violent short-lived weather experience
that shouts up over the city
I am the undulating meadow where two brothers are witnessing
time eating itself
I am all swift updraft
and if you look long enough
you can see me spinning
like a flipped coin in the atmosphere
that has yet to fall back down
Georgianna Van Gunten is a writer based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has an MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is currently teaching creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared in Bluntly Mag, MeowMeowPowPow, Gesture Literary Press, Le Petit Press, Bombay Gin, et al. She was selected as January 2020’s Poet of the Month by the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe. She has attended informal workshops with CA Conrad, has participated in the Jack Kerouac School’s Summer Writing Program where she has worked with writers such as Andrea Rexilius, J’Lyn Chapman and Anne Waldman, she has also attended five residencies at Vermont College of Fine Arts where she has worked with the poet Matthew Dickman extensively.