Katharine Blair is a queer, gender ambivalent, Canadian poet currently
living in California. Her work investigates human relationships, mental
health, and the intersection of childhood trauma and body identity.
Katharine's most recent work can be found in Anti-Heroin Chic. She tweets
@katharine_blair and fumbles the rest @kat_harineblair on Instagram.
Rites of Restoration
It begins at the table,
wide pine boards painstakingly relieved of a century's wear.
To my left, a Wedgewood stove on legs abuts the squat
Westinghouse fridge (Now with inbuilt icebox!).
Opposite, a bank of cabinets reset with period
glass and the double basin sink, white enameled and wide.
The kitchen to fit the house, the house to fit the need
to go back, and back, and back, all the way to an imagined
faultless whole. Our home is a dollhouse in 1:1 scale and my father
is the architect.
My sister holds a single lamb chop by the bone, waiting passively
for instruction, while the rest of us hide away the mess
of dinner. Give it to her, my father says, a pointed
nod in my direction. She'll eat anything. And I will.
I hide cookies under the covers, eat the stale Cheerios I scrounge
in the cloakroom at school, scarf Easter eggs hidden, and forgotten,
when I trip over them in November or worse. I hadn't,
until this moment, known anyone was watching.
Lined up at the counter: stepmother, sister, me.
The Animals on vinyl piped in from the next room, we wash
and dry dishes by hand. Everything in this house is ritual.
"We gotta get out of this place, if it's the last thing we ever do."
If ever there was an anthem for this family.
"Girl, there's a better life for me and you."
And there is. And in it I'm no longer 'the big one'.
In my own preteen imagining I have discovered
a way to never draw notice again. The first of my food rules
takes shape that night. I have, age eleven, begun a teardown remodel of my own.
The fallacy of restoration is that there is a time you can strip
the world back to find a perfect before. That he
can, with wire brush and varnish, make us perfect, make him
perfect, undo the damage done. That I
can, through determination and discipline, eat away
at myself until all offensive signs of Me are gone.
That this exposed brick can save us. That if we
get the sequence right this time, hold in the right
moments, paint restraint over desperation, plaster self
control into every crack that dares reveal need,
we could maybe, finally, be full.
You were a boy the night you knelt
on the hearth to build me a fire. I wanted
the man in you already—read promised
safety in the strained seams
of last year's hunting jacket, the careful
stacking of twig and pine.
I fussed about, giving you cover,
while you fumbled the zippers or our sleeping
bags together. Nylon catching once, and again. Later,
beneath the covers, you cut apples
and cheese against your palm
to distract us, from thigh on thigh,
waffle weave on wool. I saw the duck
of your head, blush quick
up your neck, when you caught me
looking, held your eye when the knife
slipped, and watched ears
just like your daddy's blazing
redder than plaid and fire
alike when I took your nervous
hand in mine.
I'm dissociating in the grocery store again, trying to find the way
back to the my in my body. Trying to imagine jump starting
this human suit from behind the eyes but what little sense
of embodiment I have, has left me stranded in the milk aisle.
My father's name in a text this morning & I had to start over. Unsure
again about who owns this body. Who bears the blame for it? The person who wears it
or the ones who took pains to leave their mark? When I stick & poke scissors
at the mouth of my incision, I'm writing my own story. But when I re(dress)
my arms in florals, am I giving him cover for his? I don't know.
I only know I can't live in a crime scene forever.
I shower with my eyes closed because it's fucken weird to touch a body that isn't
yours, without permission, with no one to give it. Do you think about the meat
you are? Pounds and pounds of muscle and fat and veins and bone and offal wrapped in a shocking
amount of skin? I do. Constantly. It's weird to want someone to touch that, right?
It's weird to want to touch theirs?
My brain and I aren't friends and I don't feel tethered. Grasping
for three things and three things and three things and failing
to spell w-o-r-l-d backward again and again because that's my way back. Past me to my mother.
She conceived of this body. She built it and held it and made it for me.
And I know, I know, she meant it as a gift. But, Mom, please,
it's so much more than your thought that counts.
Back to Front.