Our eighth installment consists of two poems by Elissa H. Nelson. This pairing raises provocative questions about why many women today still “get burned,” so to speak, even when they are right. Moreover, why are many women conditioned to blame themselves for encounters lacking traction? Quietly haunting, Nelson’s poems speak to our current sociopolitical moment.
My path is cut off by another driver
But the sun is blazing
I honk the horn beneath the scalding emblem
Burning my hand
My palm pulls back
But he is wrong
I pound the scorching wheel again
Burning my skin
My arm jerks away
But I am right
I slam the searing symbol once more
Burning my self
I sit in the car waiting to go inside.
When I do, I’ll hear the door close
and lock behind me.
The key is out of the ignition and in my hand.
The car door is open, but there’s no beeping
just the sounds of night.
Crickets chirp, and trucks whir on the highway nearby.
Some horn blares somewhere, but not too loud from here.
Some motorcycle engine revs, all in the distance.
My car’s clicking and ticking slow, the creaks stop.
It’s cooling down quickly
or maybe I’ve been sitting here longer than I think.
But still I sit, and listen to a neighbor’s air conditioner turn on.
I sit, and see a flash of a passing headlight reflected in a mirror.
I sit, and watch a light go on, then off, inside a house.
I didn’t think I would be back here tonight, hearing and seeing my street.
But I was sent on my way
by another man I’d rather not have to convince to want to be with me.
While driving home
I was momentarily deciding between turning left
or swerving right into a telephone pole.
No, only an image flash.
I’m just tired of it not working again,
of being sad, scared, rejected, alone.
Peeling myself off this seat is not the symbolic end.
It is already over.
The sound I hear now is myself breathing out
and a plane overhead
full of people going somewhere without me,
just like all the cars on the highway, and all the men I’ve ever known.
The night’s cool breeze is hitting my bare leg, and I’m cold.
A firefly flickers over the lawn, like the one he once showed me.
I have to get up now.
Elissa H. Nelson is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Arts and Sciences Department at Bronx Community College, City University of New York, and is also on the faculty of the School of Film and Media Studies at Purchase College, State University of New York. Her book, The Breakfast Club: Youth Identity and Generational Conflict in the Golden Age of the Teen Film, part of the series Cinema and Youth Cultures, is forthcoming from Routledge.