E. Kristin Anderson: Inside Us Is an Earthquake

E. Kristin Anderson: Inside Us Is an Earthquake

And Still He Will Be Remembered as the Believer

                                                (after The X-Files)


Believe in ghosts—      the ones that whisper in your ear late at night

in the office         the ones that pull at your childhood        like a storybook

and a chilling draft.      Believe in flying saucers       because you’ve seen

the bright lights yourself       felt the empty-full feeling       of tractor beam


paralysis     had time disappear in the middle of the road.          Believe

in conspiracy—      Cancer Man scowling in the corner       filling an ashtray

with ash            in a cloud of smoke            your informant shot

in cold blood        your questions affirmed but unanswered.       Believe in


shapeshifting and skin-walking and faith healing and the undead      but save

your suspicion            for rape.               I’ve seen Agent Scully slide photo

after photo       of bruised women         across your desk.       The marks

on their wrists from restraints         the pale, cut lip.         Their purple thighs.    


And I’ve seen you reject the evidence—        rape by spirits and invisible entities

is always           unsubstantiated.         False claims are        the weapon of angry girls.    

Still you click through these slideshows      of crop circles      and monsters.     

      Still                you describe this evidence that only you can see


Chase a rumor of a close encounter       

a vampire      el chupacabra       to the ends of the earth       but a human woman    

is where you’ll draw your line       and find a hoax.       File the evidence in a drawer.                 

                                                        Believe only in yourself.


Dress it Like a Romance Dress it Like We Drew it Pretty

                                                (after The X-Files)


Pull down the blinds and close the curtains.               In that house we let

nothing in.         In that house         we feign quiet and sunlight has to sneak

by with a winter draft.       In black and white this paints a perfect landscape.


Where there’s a legend            there’s fire.        And Scully, you know the raw

science of genetics so profoundly that it screams in your blood.      Tell me

why we make monsters         on purpose                 forgive their trespass      


dance with them and decide this is normal.        I hear you on the recording

color stripped from your language.            I hear Cher on the recording, too

her voice a storm        around the song of a creature I’m asked to forgive.


Father and father and son           crime after crime        as the song plays and

the poison fills the air with white smoke.             I know reality when I see it

and I can always hear the lie.         Turn off the TV this time.          Listen.


I cry   because I can.        I lie flat on my back remembering in the dark because

I can.        I know which songs speak truth     and I know how ugly is so easy

to uncover that its presence is almost comical.         Scully, there are photos and


we flip through them           knowing that even the pictures we took ourselves   

are little lies.         And we are in the rain again and because I can I collect it

in my hands as the house burns down        and I wait for Cher to sing because


I don’t want to hear         when the monster explains his own harmlessness

and I pretend that the stars have gone out because        Scully          the man

you harbor is      indeed a man          and as cruel as those who robbed you of


your body and your womb.      We are not theirs.       So how can this story end

with the music surging and science gone       and a rush of joy      and a dance and

if I keep my eyes shut      if I put a Cher record on     can I change my own end?

Inside Us Is an Earthquake and a Refuge and a Riot

                                                (after The X-Files)


I walk into the ditch          as myself—        there are still daises in the grass

if you look close enough.      Desires.       If you look close enough       Mercury

is in retrograde.      Actually,      the retrograde is there whether you look or not.

Agent Scully warns about the horrors we can imagine       in moments after trauma.


But in this cold town it is impossible to quiet the voice            of a man who would

drown you out     with charm.      Remember:    Trauma is there whether you look

or not.       I know the places where I can see my breath     and I am a Sagittarius

with a Leo moon.        This is true no matter what you believe         about the stars.


I used to read my horoscope in every magazine           mark my lucky days on a

calendar.            But my magic did not boil over in the school gym.    I never dug up

a field looking for something to burn—      though under the right circumstances

I can lose my mind      or my temper:    the stars       a well-timed pop song       a man


making me roll my eyes so hard I can foresee my own afterlife.       Don’t even try

to change the channel tonight.     Scully mumbles into her lit cigarette     (as if a good

woman is without vice)    and I want to tell her       she’s right         in every other town

but this one       on any other day.       And she finally erupts       and slams the door    


and hits the gas.       We all feel the perfect alignment       the horror of feminine will

somehow backed by the universe at large.         I let the grass speak its truth but I

make room for smudged eyeliner and astrologers.       I make room just in case of some

bizarre miracle. It’s so dark. It’s fine. It’s whatever Mercury wants for us this winter.


If All I Know Is Howling How Can I Breathe In a Quiet Room?

                                                (after The X-Files)


                                                               It’s raining and I’m missing

even without leaving home.          I melt into a photo—       this is the medium

in which we exist now.        I miss the whine of the Polaroid      the magic of

watching an image slowly appear          even my expired film creating its own


erratic boundary.                   I have never thought a photo         into the film    

but I do think often of the practice of lobotomy       the women just like me

with so many troubling thoughts that men          of a certain generation would

                                         pierce our eye sockets to quiet us.


Scully, you understand            unruhe            even as you assess the horror of this

CAT scan           the blighted places gone forever          the unrest of women chased

into the shadows again and again.           Scully, you speak the language of fear

because fear         is adrenaline         is a weapon           is yours.


And when you drive away from the dead          it is not elegiac          there is no

compassion for Death       for those who would cast a shadow on our wicked teeth     

the animal pull to resist this at every possible turn             blurring ourselves

                                                 into any sunlight provided.


I imagine, Dana, that you struggle to sleep            awake to bear witness to yourself

in case you are ever missing again.        And I wonder whether unruhe is a curse at all.     

I cannot know any other self      cannot reach behind my eyes.        And this photo

I’ll keep for myself—      a sort of mirror to watch over whatever self survives.

E. Kristin Anderson is a poet, Starbucks connoisseur, and glitter enthusiast living in Austin, Texas. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press), and Hysteria: Writing the female body (Sable Books, forthcoming).  Kristin is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including A Guide for the Practical Abductee (Red Bird Chapbooks), Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is an assistant poetry editor at The Boiler and an editorial assistant at Sugared Water. Once upon a time she worked nights at The New Yorker. Find her online at EKristinAnderson.com and on twitter at @ek_anderson..