Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 12
Autumn, 2013

Featured Excerpt

Lianuska Gutierrez

Evolution of a Girl

Meanwhile the toddler in the dining hall of my dormitory (called Leverett House— or house of baby hares, which some residents tumbled into a joke about fucking like rabbits, while to me the house spoke, in look-back, my destiny: my first pet, who saved me when college was done, was a rabbit) by the Charles River learned to wink by me, a flirt without soot. I was a flirt without soot then, I showed it first, mere shine like I was shown, then became it when it was mis-taken, when I was taken up on, when my proffer that was dazzle, with want, yes, but of love with the froth, became date, then down on my fours on a mattress in a lovely scene: because the caramelizing body combining with fantasy is a good like childbirth: so, not pretty quite, but yes, to sing and greeting-card over: congrats on the leveret; so is the grunt and swirl that centers all the body in a cradle, roundabout to spin-zoom in, it is to greeting-card over, in a way: happy valentine's— when the fantasies are at least part met, or met for a moment, in that fragment of union and unison, before he is catharted and moves on in span of thunder clap to forget- I cannot quite say on that, I don't know on that, cannot square the give with the heave-ho. No fake, I didn't mistake the look of given up to me as I am a portal to something you can't pay for (the luck and borrow of having a body that can feel like that and of finding one to joy you, who wants to); the face of each he (not so many) was meant (I am a Geiger for sincerity), but they had a gift of shut-off after emit, a gift that I don't know.

Only once I came close to finding out, to conversion to them; the one I wanted I was sure would not want me, and he had not yet made a move, and another was my chum and was romancing me; I did not want the chum so much, he did not punch my fantasy, which is something beyond one, in one's make, though tastes can change, as the subject is remade again and again in life route; but I thought, to have someone, let me try, let me just—. And then I would have known what it is to use another at such a precipice, at such risk to him (who felt): since I was at the age by then of all out, and being trained as prostitute meant there wouldn't be too long a wait (for what).
    Other times I have pretended enthrallment, because that is nice, it is decency to fake it when they don't ping your fantasy. But always with some ajar, wedge of light, hope of maybe, he could be it. Never, miscreancy of tell to buds, she is for fun, even past that, below that, skimming sewer water tunnels, to call her names like to a bag lady or any seen as throw-away, as not for family, even when she is above, and he cannot tell, for he is below in make and cannot read above his rank.
    Or I have stuffed down my nature of all in or all opposed (and too, I should say, ambivalence marks me), no decorum or wit to lie or lessen, when I've let some pay me for little tricks (past the unasked training, breakage- so what?), I was top actress, for my foundation of tea-rose-fed and made to love in kind of he in place of me, like poser beneath cherry blossom in silks, with parasol, look awry in shyness. Tear my blouse and watch me cry; and she means it. (And when she doesn't, can copy her own self). And then she likes it, falls out like a dervish (love to be the one to make her love it).

I don't see you as mother material, he said.

The number one thing my circle of sisters knew about me was that I loved children.
    Then, how I was with them, those closest to me (who cared for me, had taken the time and discovered in the invest fruit; or who had loved me quick, with no help for it, kin-crush). When they wanted a hard talking-to, a shake-up, they wouldn't go to me—I was one to blow appeasements (not tell it raw, skin claw to shame to betterment), I had pant for no more; or when not silly-whooping, I was one to nestle at their side for my own settling, quietening, like companion horse that chuffs steam from nostrils, with gaze that flits, is loath to stick, hasn't bent to unnerve.
    That I loved dancing; myself made art and most alive, what better (but to be in mutual pedestal flux in throes with beloved; to be his art, as he yours, and most alive, in jerk and writhe).
    That my face took me time every day; I gave myself this job. (After it was botched, no amount of time would fix it, no manner of drawing on it, what pigments I rubbed in, and I just stayed in my room.)
    And that I loved love, wanted all from one.

Others knew about me that I had a strut, a coquette slink, with grace of art; and not more.

When I went to college, I was leaving behind a kinchin, not my own but still my love, my cousin I made babydoll for four years. When I was a little girl, I'd had many babydolls. I was no tomboy, I was a full-out girl. I played house, by myself, being an only child, and I carried my life-sized baby, and fed her milk from a bottle, and brushed her hair, and put in it bows, and changed her diapers, and pushed her in a stroller.
    I talked so much of my little cousin at school, that he became welded to the thought of me for everyone. On a trip I did not go on, I heard my teacher had pointed at a poster of a baby that someone had defaced with horns, mustache, goatee- "Look, it's Nicholas," my teacher told them all, for laughs. That's how much I loved playing mom, I talked of it to point of joke.

The toddler in Leverett House was the son of a house tutor, and he, and other babies I sat for, became my substitutes, my fixes, while I was away from home.
I always needed a baby. After college, I got a pet rabbit, have had rabbits since.

In the bed of my studio apartment, a few years after college, he said, I don't see you as a mother, you're so mad at the world. You're not made to be a mother.

He had told me I had been one for him to fuck with, that I had gotten played. Then later, when he wanted more, was in short supply, he spoke of love for me. I was one of the ones he'd loved, he said, and he counted on his fingers all the ones.

After sex one time, he said, "You're not the one, I would know if you were the one," as if talking to himself, eyes in front, as if I was not there.

He has a child now. I do not.

I made my cousin a book, to teach him letters, manners, beginning words.
Don't try to argue with me, he told me once, I'll win every time.
I used pictures cut from magazines. One was a photo of a porcelain doll, Native American girl-child, nôkskuasis, with thick black hair to waste, brown skin like my baby cousin. I drew lines out from the parts of her body and named the parts.

The Black Dahlia's killer was never discovered.
She was found bisected, sected into parts.
The toddler in Leverett, Robert, would run to me whenever I entered the dining hall-
what a mania I would throw him in, little boy I loved.
    More than the feeling he knew I had for him, the fun I knew to give with smile, faces of wow and oops and oh-no (-like Laurel, Grover, Tripper, Allen of the muppet-mobile hands, mock-panic palm to noggin), of so happy to be with you, and pointing this and that, and chatting funny sounds (radio plays and the yellow hat's monkey (or vice versa), who ranges a scale of sounds to not need words, fall over ears like tinsel), my full give, attention his, all he could show to be, safe with me, I always came in so pretty, such sparkle I always put on me then, figure I cut (and little kids like cartoon princesses (painter palette on the dress or lids of eyes, ruby nails that shimmer, mouth a glossy paper heart); and they like what they will be, or will want, if things go well, as they must). I felt charming to all with sense then, in a way first time ever for me, only time in my grown life, for the space of two years, before I went too far to cement the beam on me and got my nose cut and learned how woven are the body and the self, like Samson and his hair.

Did you teach him to wink that way, to give that look? said my roommate. I was feminine then, a flirt without soot, and the eyes-squeeze I slid to the baby I gave to all who loved and flattered me.
The boy learned it from me because he loved me.
I was a siren in heels and I was a heart a flirt without soot a heart yet not flat.
He would jump and shout and run to hug me.
The man I was sleeping with then would pretend not to see me.
I had dolls named Victoria, Amaryllis, Loopy (from a Shirley Temple flick), Samantha.
When I was a child, my cousin played my husband and I faked giving birth, had a doll on the ready.

My heart is still apple-huffed and –firm and roseate.
I give my love to rabbits, and they deserve it, and I look
for no other.

You're not made to be a mother.
    And the will of the whip pans out.
(Don't give a child to the ineluctable mouth.)

Lianuska Gutierrez studied at Harvard and Fordham, and she is currently a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Work can be found in Counterexample Poetics, Wicked Alice, Yemassee, Split Lip Magazine, and other journals.