Arguing the Etymology of "OK" with Someone Who's Always Been Fine I tell her it started when I was six years old: the fear of spark, the fear of smoke, the fear of burning down with the house. I am: the walls containing a kitchen fire, soup on the stove, Mom forgetting to turn off the burner. The ham bone crisping. The navy beans shriveling. A girl, crawling on an empty belly, pressing her hand against every door, searching for safety. Waiting to be engulfed. She says I’ve experienced trauma. That my amygdala still thinks I am six and trapped and inhaling darkness. I tell her Ronald McDonald came to my elementary school and taught me how to fight fires. And by fight, I mean run away. When I told my mother Ronald singed a bible just to show how flammable everything truly can be, she did not believe me. My mother never believed me where men were concerned. She says I must be misremembering the part about the bible. I tell her I have never been safe. Before the house fire. Before my amygdala developed. Before Carl and James and Chris and Brian and Benny and Michael and David and Paul and Ron and Abdul and Merle and Andrew and Timmy and Billy and all the other men who scorched everything I’ve ever held faith in. How can I be when even this conversation is tinder? She says we’ve made good progress and she will see me next week. I tell her her clothes smell like smoke. Self Portrait with Cremains Google tells me cremation takes 4 to 15 business days. So, when the funeral home asks me if I want to be present for the process, I imagine a spare cot in the crematorium. The pillow hard. The blanket thin. I imagine breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Blackened toast three times a day for three weeks. Because pot roast just doesn’t seem appropriate when your mother is carbonizing. I imagine a thick word search for company. Circling terms like aftercare, urn, columbarium, furnace. I imagine waking up in the middle of the night, bladder full, the glow of the chamber lighting my steps to the bathroom. I imagine calling off work. Sorry. I won’t be in again today. They’re pulverizing the chunks of bone that didn’t burn.
Lannie Stabile (she/her), a queer Detroiter, is the winner of OutWrite’s 2020 Chapbook Competition in Poetry and a back-to-back semifinalist for the Button Poetry Chapbook Contest. Lannie was also named a 2020 Best of the Net finalist. Her debut poetry collection, Good Morning to Everyone Except Men Who Name Their Dogs Zeus, was published in 2021 by Cephalopress. Her fiction debut, Something Dead in Everything, is now out with ELJ Editions. Find Lannie Stabile on Twitter @LannieStabile or @NotALitMag, where she throws random writing contests and open mics.
Guest Editor Latorial Faison is the author of Mother to Son, the trilogy collection, 28 Days of Poetry Celebrating Black History, and other titles. A graduate of UVA and VA TECH, she recently, completed doctoral studies at Virginia State University and published The Missed Education of the Negro: An Examination of the Black Segregated Education Experience in Southampton County. This Furious Flower Poetry Center fellow, Pushcart nominee, and Tom Howard Poetry Prize winner has been published in Artemis Journal, West Trestle Review, Obsidian: Literature and Art in the African Diaspora, PRAIRIE SCHOONER, and elsewhere. Forthcoming work, Mama Was a Negro Spiritual, was a semi-finalist for The CAVE CANEM POETRY PRIZE. Faison is married, has three sons, and teaches at Virginia State University.