Emily Rapp


The Road Through

The mothers’ dark mother tongues weave images inside my ear syllables that sound the way
light must feel as it moves through lace its path undetectable until it is already

viewed a skirt-across-the-ground sound I remember a bug balanced on the wooden log of
my leg and the only proof of the bite was not pain but two toothy indents a tiny cleave

worn near the hinges until the leg was too small and we sent it along to Bosnia with legs of
Vietnam veterans who left one in the jungle and another in the snow now a crackle in

a throat I remember when I thought the horse’s bones were breaking making the sound cold
branches do before they crack but it was the reins in my hands pull of skirts over

dark thighs and eyes watch the white sky of my leg work the clutch when a strange beast
sprints across the road the other leg hangs useless and hidden quietly collecting sweat I

can pour into a glass at the end of the day the road through Windhoek to Okahandjah is
long and dusty we are too many women and tongues in one van voices organize in grid

patterns over the gravel I have to watch and all I see are sounds through the open window
along the street are the tenement houses with faces that droop like the mouths of these

women when they say words that must mean “Children” and “Death” because here tribes
are stacked on tribes dominoes of hate and children with yellow-faces open their rotted

out mouths and scream with glee no one has a word for they are moving bundles of mud
one girl with a used straw twisted out of her hair a plastic feather one girl who shouts

from a pile of shit makes all of us monstrosities at our destination a woman crouched under
an open square of window where the toughest of notes is forced from the church

walls to be beaten by bugs and birds’ wings and this woman stands to reveal a twisted limb
and eyes that know there is a word for disabled people in this African tongue that means

stepped on by an elephant a wildebeest a cheetah a bear a god all of the women are looking
at her and then at me and I think of knitting needles clicking together in wombs I

think of Psalm 139 and being fearfully and wonderfully made patterns and the effort of their
resistance stepping into the shadow of the foot coming out crushed through the

ground of the wood-walled church with the proof of a vision alight in my palm a savage
spinning they want to peel back and see the patterns of my memory see how their own

sounds fell as light or shadow they want the skin of my chest to thin and fall away so they
can see the squeeze and shut of an organ immaculate beating perfect inside the body

squashed days that close like wounds they want stories and words and the whole
pornographic painful slick shit of it all they want juicy parts that squirm and vomit and

cry they want damage I turn and set my face away from them they cannot have it

Okahandjah, Namibia