Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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back torrin a. greathouse

My Friend Tells Me I’ve Got to Stop Letting My Enemies Live Rent Free in My Head

There’s a cyst sat on the surface of my brain shaped like a spider-
web. Sometimes, I wonder if you could trace it back to the water
-melon seeds I swallowed as a child. Or the water pipes & paint
that lined my childhood home. Maybe it was that when I told my
mother how I wanted to be as big & strong as my brother she
laughed, said I should try drinking Miracle Gro & was too drunk
to stop me when I did. Maybe it grew as if sown by my father’s
fist, or any other in a drawn-out history of wounds. Rotted fruit.
Red nest of creeping things. In the sky, crossing from one state
to another, the pressure grows so bright I think the cyst might
burst. In the eye beneath it, my sight goes gray, then red, then
dark. Then after touching down it returns, bit-by-bit, as if timid.
Afraid of what I contain. The doctors say that it’s not yet worth
an operation. The risk—too steep. The procedure: fenestration.
A window cut past bone, where infection could creep inside.
It’s funny, you know? Some doctors think you’re born with them
in there. I think someone snuck a monster into my head. I want it out.  

Note: This poem was written in an Oulipian form, the Fox’s Gambit, invented by Julian Randall and myself. It is a seventeen-line poem wherein every three lines, a letter of the alphabet is removed—either by a collaborating poet or via random generation—from the poet’s lexicon, restricting their access to language and requiring them to improvise their way through the compositional project. For example; this poem loses the letters J, L, V, G, and Z.

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