There's this cartoon of King-Kong and Godzilla. King-Kong looks on expectantly, but Godzilla doesn't engage. Instead, he carefully helps a crane ascend a slate of bricks to the top of a construction site. He says over his shoulder, "That's not who I am anymore."
My friends get angry when I shit-talk my past self. They see this as an insult to both me and them. But it isn't a matter of roots and stems. This isn't puberty, or paint inevitably chipping.
I forgive the blue jay who destroys the eggs, sure! His instincts told him to dive-bomb the soil. I understand that trauma causes cats to shove glasses off countertops. But understanding is not excuse. If I excuse myself, I must excuse others, and I am so exhausted from excusing others my entire life. It's not okay you threw me off the table. It's not okay to sweep me into a broken little pile. It's not okay that you're still friends with him, no. You cannot be friends with that cat, and me, no, not anymore.
My life was spent mindlessly excusing others for digging into my roots. Their abandonment! Look! Their unprocessed childhood! My grief made me messy (see: broken glass, see: stupid cat). I lost so many fathers, no mortar, my mother, my body, brick after brick, let's move again, let's try a new house. I was loved and loved and loved. I became a little deer, both fawning and fucking her way to a hopefully stable den.
There is no law in our legal system which accounts for the four F's: fight, flight, freeze, fawn. I don't want to blame my nervous system for the people I probably hurt, by parasympathy cannot exist if you never clear the leaves. His fight piled twigs. My fawn lays flat. Flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, under piles of useless fucking paperwork.
No, that's not who I am anymore, crunching rocks, creating chaos, then letting the dust cover me for years. But yeah, my past embarrasses me. Is growth inherently snobby? The debris still exists — I've just adapted to breathe through it.
I was prepping my garden the other day, and all the roots systems I thought I destroyed actually still exist. They pop their heads up here and there.
Okay, I'll say it plainly. I was a drunken loud slut and then I was sad and meek. Now I am none of those things, but I still don't feel confident. When a judgement comes down against you, can you ever be confident again?
She abandoned the house after her son died, young body, small then smaller, folding in on itself in the back most upstairs bedroom. When we first walked in, bugs rushed, hid themselves. Edges of legs disappeared into rafters. Pull back, fold in, fold in, disappear. My friend and I are considering moving in, in secret of course. No one can know. The house is still in her name. But we can't let this mansion go to waste. Look at this furniture! Look at the curtains on their expertly installed rods! They touch the floor! They're never truly still! We go upstairs to assess the bedroom situation. There's four, but one we don't enter. The door is half open, and we see the white sheets of the hospital bed even after we close it. On the main floor I find an office with 2 computers and say, Hey! We could work here too! My friend pops his head in and asks, Is there an office upstairs? He glances around. I'd really prefer it. I wonder why but before I can ask, he sniffs and says, Death drifts downward. I'd rather be above. Out back I find a garden of raised beds, ripe fruit, rotted and chewed by beasts. I water it as my friend explains how his military experience could help us live covertly. Water pools between rows for too long. I thought it would sink in.
conyer clayton is an Ottawa-based artist and gymnastics coach, originally from Louisville, Kentucky. She has 2 albums and 7 chapbooks, including Sprawl, written collaboratively with Manahil Bandukwala, forthcoming with Collusion Books, Fall 2020. She is the winner of Arc's 2017 Diana Brebner Prize and The Capilano Review's 2019 Robin Blaser Poetry Contest, writes reviews for Canthius, and is a member of the creative collective VII. Her debut full-length collection of poetry is We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions, 2020).
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