Sammie Downing: Special Feature
Am I a River Or a Woman
I do not own a gun or knives (if you don’t count the dull one by the kitchen sink) but I have discovered a bathtub on the other side of the world and if being young taught me nothing else, it’s this: the bath is full of daggers and yet you grow accustomed to the sight of rosy water filling the soft cavern between your thighs. If you can inherit memories you can inherit fathers bending over daughters with a grip on the tenterhooks of life, a rusty, flat-beer-flavor to his voice—you know, I love you the best. Memories that never even belonged to you imbed themselves in the trachea, the liver.
Make yourself a river—this is what the world has taught you. All around you earth is uplifted in a confluence of magma. Plates force themselves on one another in brutish competition for skyspace. Hand over hand against earth against rock against falling short against sinking under. This terror of movement forms a valley about your body.
So you cut yourself a space. A moment of quiet. A slice of privacy where you can deepen. What looks like stillness—like a flat plane of tender bubble lines—is only an illusion. In truth 22,500 cubic feet per second expel from within your depths. A millennia’s worth of sediment rides your swelling form. No one asked you to carry this sludge—you were born as transport. Quartz and sandstone and marble—each grain tumbles through your current—If you leave now, don’t ever come back. Whose voice is this? You are filled with snow still redolent of pine and cloud. Webs converge within you.
No matter how many baths I take the offal, the inheritance, can’t be flushed away. I go I go I go. Cutting yourself is for the impatient. I go to the bath to erode. To dissipate. Come to me and I will release you. It is a test: how long before you carve yourself to silt?
Am I the rock or am I the water? Or am I worn away
The poet Ed Roberson told Sammie Downing, “You only have one life and you only have one work.” Advice she's taken to heart–she's filed taxes in 7 U.S. States and now finds herself working on a cattle and deer station in the depths of New Zealand. Find her fiction at Entropy Mag, poetry at 3am Magazine and my blog at: www.herearelions.org.