Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 34
Autumnal Equinox, 2019

New Works

A Martine

Paper Tiger Man

not just twelve / nearly thirteen / i tell the man / who leans down / whispers in the crook of my shoulder / he has laughter and beer / on his tongue / and something else / something heavy / and possibly harmful / funny / you barely even look twelve to me / you ever wonder / what your life will be like / when you're my age / again he laughs / places a welted hand / on my bare shoulder / then again i suppose / it's too early for you / to start thinking about the end / i look him up and down / actually monsieur / no / been having existential crises / since i could string words / together / he leans closer / the others / they give him a wide berth / joyless tourists / slouched on splintering benches / i am no less morose / i am a spot of grey / ashen composure / under a clouded tuesday dawn / clouded dawn / over this slate-colored area / of the saint-exupéry gare de lyon / the man / of the beer-and-laughter breath / sidles nearer / he has seen my distracted chaperone / relinquish his vigilance for a cup of coffee / nearby / he has seen the father of three on my right / too embarrassed to intervene / not enough / to do anything about it / he has seen the woman / whose eyes scream / get out / vas-t'en / laisse-la tranquille / he has seen her look / away / he has seen / open dejection / homesickness on my face / and he has mistaken it / for vulnerability

i narrow sneering eyes / i gather my things to leave / he says / you shouldn't be so scared of people / but what does he know / i am not scared of anything / of anyone / have never been scared / tussle with fear / chew it out for breakfast / what does he know / i am just tired / i am just tired already / not yet a woman / not even yet a teenager / and already tired / and well-acquainted with strangers / whose breaths reek of beer / or laughter / or violence / or deception / or apologies / or all the above / it's been one year / since i've been catcalled through a car window / two / since i've been flirted with by a man thrice my age / four / since i've felt aflame with discomfort at a wandering touch / eight / since a stray remark i couldn't yet pinpoint for its inappropriateness / and more and more / and i just don't have time for this / it's only tuesday / and it's dawn / and i'm going to be jet-lagged / and i miss my parents / and the chaperone shouldn't have gone / to chase a cup of coffee / and i want my seat by the window / so i can glaze my weary eyes / over the landscape / and who is he to tell me / how i should feel / when i don't know for myself / half the time / anymore / you shouldn't be so scared / i only want to talk / haven't you ever been bored?

but he is not wrong / he has merely seen the future / i am not scared / but i will be / i will know fear / will feel for it / will tentatively tread it / will sink my tired feet in it / will have it run up my legs / like molasses left to congeal / i will see into the souls of men / not the waning beauty / that i look upon now / at twelve-nearly-thirteen-years-old / but the otherness / that terrible notion / of potential / of suggestions of terror / of the power to wield unimaginable damage / and I will wish i was / will wish i was blind / will wish i couldn't see / will wish my wisdom was misplaced / my misgivings disproportionate / i will wish i was / but never ever / will i ever / be wrong

but what matters right now / right this moment / under a clouded tuesday dawn / over the slate-colored area / of the saint-exupéry gare de lyon / is that this still-hungover man / is wrong / i do not cave to fear / and perhaps he can sense it too / why else / would he have singled me / out of all the joyless tourists / slouched on splintering benches / heartbroken homesick jet-lagged / hoping for windows and landscapes / out of which to rest / weary foreheads and gazes

and then at last / all of a sudden / i can see it after all / beyond the hirsute stubble / and the ebbing drunkenness / and the brusque marseille cadence / and the mean curl of the mouth / and the mismatched cufflinks / and the welts on the gnarled hands / and the knuckle clenching the train ticket / and the laughter and the beer / broken sad lonely / wanting to connect with someone / anyone / just to know he is alive / to know he has shape and weight / even if it means accosting / a twelve-nearly-thirteen year old / who has had ample time / to lose her own sense / of shape and weight / or / perhaps i am being kind / once again allowing / a broken man's brokenness / to infringe upon my own / a choice i'll come to exercise / like a reflex by the time / i am thirteen / actually thirteen / but under this clouded tuesday dawn / over the slate-colored area / of the saint- exupéry gare de lyon / it is not fear written / on this small face / it is insolence / laced with skepticism / the mask i will learn to wear / over the years / in lieu of the bawling rabid fear / against the viciousness / of men / now that we've established / that i am not scared / and that you are bored / what do you want / to talk about?

A. Martine is a trilingual writer, musician, artist, an Assistant Editor at Reckoning Press and a Managing Editor of The Nasiona. She might have been a kraken in a past life. Some of her fiction and nonfiction can be found on The Rumpus, Medium, Lamplight, TERSE. Journal, Metaphorosis and Bright Wall/Dark Room, among others.