Secure Your Own Mask Before Helping Others
What if I’m not sure which face is mine?
What if there are extra mouths where my eyes are supposed to be?
What if oxygen is flowing normally but time is slowing down?
What if the seat cushion would rather save its own life?
What if the infant life jacket grows up too fast?
What if lights appear not only throughout the cabin but far beyond,
a runway stretching around the earth and back
to the site of turbulence?
What if the nearest exit is within me?
That first year I never slept
more than two hours
at a time. Dreaming, I screamed
such things they feared the neighbors
might call the state.
The Berlin Wall fell, Mandela
left prison, a complete monster skeleton
washed ashore in the Galapagos, was
immediately confiscated. Roaches
in their bronze tuxedos chewed
the red shag carpet. I drained my mother
of half her meals
while she talked her sisters through
remembering what their father did,
leaving their husbands, living anyway. Telephones
had umbilical cords then;
Sinead O’Connor ruled the radio,
yet to rip the pope to shreds,
be laughed pathological.
I squalled the house to delirium.
In rare, still-screaming sleep I crawled
up the wall and onto the ceiling,
learning the house upside down.
It was from there I saw our men
had their own powers. They could fade to white
right next to you. They could sleep
through sirens–––dissolve their bodies
and still cast shadows, tuck themselves
into the sound of a swinging door. I wondered
at that magic, wished I had a pill as perfect
to smooth the lighting in my mouth. I watched
my mother watch the screen and rock
my body in her arms,
holding the phone between
her shoulder and her ear. The sisters cried
relief. I gave her that, for as long
as I could, but soon enough
had to run back down
into myself and wake.
Fiona Chamness is a writer and musician based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poetry has appeared in PANK, Blood Lotus, the Bear River Review, Radius Lit, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Midwestern Gothic, and several anthologies. Her poem "Choreography for Ensemble" was the recipient of the Beloit Poetry Journal's Chad Walsh Prize in 2014. Feral Citizens, her split poetry collection with Aimee Le, was released on Red Beard Press in 2011. Her album Dispatches From the Well was released in 2012. Fiona is also part of the queer feminist punk trio Cutting Room Floor, whose debut album You Shouldn't Be Here was released in 2013 and whose sophomore album Sink/Swim is forthcoming in 2017.