Fiona Chamness

Top Shortage

Oracles are just bratty bottoms for the gods,
I tell a seer friend after reading signs
I’ve locked my heart away too hard.
The tarot reading roasts my ego.
It says I’m seeking the kind of stability

that only looks like stability; relying
on my work to save me will lead me
once again to ruin. How dare you come
for me like this. On the queer cruising group,
every top gets swarmed. Here, as everywhere,

the handsome white tops get swarmed most
and by the whitest congregants. We’ve run
so far from the banks and churches
and entrenchments of fascism just to seek
another fuck me daddy jesus,

one who this time will be kind
after we’re broken. Yes, I want kindness,
a spark hot enough to pin me blinded
to the wall. In the solitude I choose,
my gods are blunt. They love how I run

from them as though the heart were not round
as the earth that owns it. It’s true, I see my work
everywhere. I’ve got a lot riding
on this grouchy witch schtick,
trying to find the right words to shatter

through to a better world.
My friend is right that nothing is less
like salvation. Still, I am angry
with all these quartz-clutchers hexing
the patriarchy from a safe distance,

having made no sacrifices, as though
the earth were here for our bullshit,
as though that weren’t how our rulers
came to rule us in the first place. I’m ashamed,
too. I’m not a particularly good oracle;

everything I have to say is obvious.
The kind of spell it takes to overthrow
a dictator is the kind you cast
with your fists, and here I am banking
on books, hoping we’ll need both

because I’m not a top. My fist
is mediocre. Come to me, crush me, force me
into my body. They say the Sybil’s prophecies
were so weird because they built
her temple over a sulfur crack

and she was always breathing poison.
I wonder if we’re so different, this banal empire
that leaves fissures with every step,
the lives we spend cursing and blessing
each other in its footprints. The veil

between the worlds is thin,
but not thin enough to fuck through.
The gods can boss us, but they can’t
make us free each other. They can’t bind us
as we hunger to be bound.



We spend a third of our lives
           in bed, says every mattress ad, so why not
          etc. Were I a man I might better
                        belie the claim, slip on my shoes as I have longed
                       to do and walk and walk through a softened
          night, the water-sweet of summer
or perfect silence and swirling scrim
          of snow. Twice in my life I have gone
          and caught in my open-eyed net the hour
                       when all the light is the dim blue of a vein: the first,
           getting up for school to find it canceled
by an ice storm, and instead of returning
           to bed venturing into the stillness of a street
           turned treacherous crystal, reveling
                       in its secret glitter under starlight. The other time,
                       sleeping in the yard with a friend so we could wake
                                        and walk together, protected by pairing, scaling
                       a steep hill in the park to watch the sun
          rise over the soccer field. I know now we bet
                       on our skins and zip codes to save us
                       from our shapes. I can’t calculate
                                        the sum of all I’ve given up
                                        to fear, or what others have lost in fear
                                                      of me. Were I a man I would still need
                                        this face like milk should I wish truly never
                       to be hunted. As it is, I twist in near-dreams
                                        as a fish flips desperate in the inch of sour water
                                        at the bottom of a rowboat. When I snap awake,
                                        line cut, hook still buried in my jaw, I watch women
                                                      doing their makeup, for art, for pleasure,
                                                      to be recognized as lovely or as women at all.
                                                                     I watch cakes being decorated, wood
                                                      sanded down, an endless, numbing stream
                                        of camouflage, and between the compilations ads
                                                      extolling or decrying latex, sheathed microcoils, memory
                                                                     foam. Just the right firmness, just the right give.
                                                                        Cradles your pressure points. You deserve
                                                                                     a better night’s sleep.
I wonder who else is lying
                                                                     awake, watching. Our restless legion,
                                                      all our traps. Even in the dark we are imprisoned
                                                                     and imprison inside someone else’s clockwork.
                                                                     Give us the moon, you cowards. Give it back.


Fiona Chamness is writer and musician from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her work is published or forthcoming in PANK, Blood Lotus Journal, the Bear River Review, Radius Lit, Muzzle Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, HEArt, Nailed, VINYL, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and the Indiana Review, as well as in several anthologies and in the poetry collection Feral Citizens, co-authored with Aimée Lê. She received the Beloit Poetry Journal’s Chad Walsh Prize in 2014. She also performs as a solo musician and with queer feminist punk band Cutting Room Floor. She is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Rutgers University, Newark.