iterations of self
(From Amy's debut pamphlet &, joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2017)
i. self as inheritance:
your mother howls like it’s the moon she’s pushing out of her belly. sweating empress of the sky, she plants her feet in the bed, hair zephyred in the sheets. as with your father’s birth, it’s twins: a girl and a boy, amy & jonathan. unlike your father’s birth, the two are identical. from your mother, eyes like a downpour. from your father, the occupation of the same space. on the drive home from the hospital, your father beats his hands against the steering wheel in time to a song by simon & garfunkel, his grin wide enough to swallow all six lanes.
ii. self as augury:
king of cups, reversed. you are terrified of becoming your father, always fleeing, every articulation gone to the fire. the hierophant, reversed. we are taught a bloodline will bind us. the hanged man reversed. it won’t. carry on turning your cards, see it: judgement. reversed. judgement. reversed. judgement. reversed.
iii. self as electron:
contemplate the light, its red and its violet. consider the theories postulated by quantum mechanics: perhaps there is only one particle in all places at once. conclude that you were made in the dark.
iv. self as repetition:
your grandfather cuts a barbed spiral of identical paper girls at the kitchen table. they push themselves up from the surface and arm in arm they go, singing amy, amy as they march eyelessly towards its edge. what to do with all these little girls? there are so many of you, heaps upon heaps of you. your grandfather is calling you by your mother’s name and you don’t have the strength to correct him as you sweep the scraps into your hand and begin to devour them.
v. self as wendigo:
amy sharpens herself against the leather, the splintered bones of her desire made blade, her mouth a string of white pearls. how long have i been eating myself? her collections of teeth are grinding together in the jar as she assembles herself on the bed, twisting her limbs like an infant class construction of yoghurt pots and pipe-cleaners. the air groans through her tissue-paper skin, her face a self-portrait done in lipstick. i’ve always been so determined to be monstrous.
vi. self as vanity:
they name you for love and the only thing you love is the sound of your own damn voice.
vii. self as silhouette:
at the bathroom sink, jonathan watches tap-water as it falls through translucent fingers, tumbles into steam through the cups of his palms. please somebody remind me of my hands. he catches shape in the light, folding into rabbit, then dove, then barking dog with one paw extended, refracting himself inwards and inwards and inwards. is this where i left them? grasping at water, playing over its surface, as if i know anything of thirst, of drowning.
viii. self as masturbation:
this is your third jonathan. have you fucked yourself enough yet to want something different?
ix. self as femininity
fists full of keys, amy teaches herself righteous anger, how to shift tongue into dagger, straps a megaphone across her back like a quiver. throw open your doors, else i’ll lay siege, topple every tower, for when i speak even the stone stops to listen, even the stars still in the sky. lady armoured red, queen of rioters and highwaymen, striding fearless down the centre of the street unconcerned by motor engines. pink is what happens when you water down women.
x. self as masculinity
fingers raised to feel the breeze, jonathan tracks barefoot through the fells, content to let the clouds pass overhead uninterrupted. he spins with the slow rotation of the planet, carves lichtenberg figures into the hillside, chalk scars on the landscape, scent of thunder, voice of autumn leaves. all these things invisible: the hand that lifts the bumblebee, the eyelids that slide closed into night, the thoughts that write the world.
xi. self as hallucination:
mirror images tap the glass of their reflections, meet at the conjecture of amy’s daggered nails and jonathan’s calloused fingertips, each poised to beg for their existence. pray tell, which of us is you?
xii. self as deity:
a condemned cathedral grown over with vines, its innards open to the sky but the stained glass still spilling all the colours of light onto the floor. deer hooves against that old stone as they cross the altar. silent communion. birds overhead, weaving branches from the air. jonathan sitting, hands folded, in the last pew. everything, everything. and amy beside him, her fingers in his hair, priestess of earth. who are we that demand understanding? none of us will be spared.
xiii. self as ampersand:
only say the word. body and name, each of these are yours to unmake and make again from their constituent dust. even gods have built imperfectly, creeping towards completion.
Amy Kinsman is a genderfluid poet living in Manchester, England. They are the founding editor of Riggwelter, a creative arts journal that releases an issue monthly. Amy is also associate editor of Three Drops From A Cauldron and host of Gorilla Poetry open mic. They have competed in the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam and is a two time finalist in Manchester's Word War Slam.
iterations of self is from Amy's debut pamphlet &, joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2017, and has endorsements from Simon Armitage and Helen Mori.