Lunatics need steering away from pretty things,
endearing things, such as blue butterflies that
batter outside of their compound. Mistakenly, I show
pictures of them to themselves, their skin slick in silver
nitrate and glossy paper, their eyes bulging or squinting or
staring defiantly up at the sun, sullen faces, sunken cheeks.
They stare and stare and stare at the pictures unsure
what is true and what is reality and whether those
two things are the same. “Here,” one lunatic says,
her frame small, her voice large, her embodiment of life
as ripe as bananas browning in paper bags.
She takes the picture and draws succinct illustrations of
shadows on the surface of the photo. This is what they
were thinking when the picture was snapped.
Lunatics, maniacs, and women in general used to cross their
legs at the ankle for fear of eyes or spiders spying what
was hidden beneath skirts and flaps of flesh; they were careful
people and needed some management. “Here,” said a
tall, thin willowy woman. She’s a tree branch broken from a
slender tree, or a switch planted in the ground as if it should grow,
but stays still, sways, rots. “I will draw for you our concern,” she says.
She wets a finger and traces the horrors in the sky, against the
forming clouds, I could plainly see that if I saw what she saw,
what any of them saw, I’d go mad. Considering
lunatics need some kind of direction—lunatics, maniacs, women—
they are all women, really, they are all big and little boned,
big and little hipped,
withering away into a world that would not have them
except to have them
and have a go, and they know this:
they show me how to walk on lotus feet,
how to breathe in corseted waists, how to endure the loss
of that location of sensual pleasure,
they show me scars and bruises perineal
lacerations and extended breasts, bleeding nipples and soreness—
so much soreness. I see them, finally, for what they are:
sane, so very sane.
Excerpted from Peculiar Heritage by Demisty D. Bellinger. Used with the permission of Mason Jar Press. Copyright © 2021 by Demisty D. Bellinger.