Kai Minosh Pyle
"All I can tell you is that when you cry, it’s water that falls from your eyes."
Kai Minosh Pyle is a Métis and Baawiting Anishinaabe 2spirit currently living in the Dakota homelands of occupied Bde Ota Otunwe (Minneapolis, Minnesota). They are a writer and language revitalization advocate and are currently researching Anishinaabe 2spirit linguistic, historical, and literary memory at the University of Minnesota. Their works of poetry and creative nonfiction have previously been published in Red Rising Magazine, Queer Indigenous Girl, kimiwan zine, and PRISM International.
the art of learning to have a body
you learn to have a body slowly.
the way you looked in the mirror, every mirror, compulsively, not out of vanity but out of disbelief. the feeling, which comes later, that you want to peel off your skin because it’s wrong. it’s an ache you can feel in your veins like adrenaline. you look at other people’s bodies and it hurts. the time, which comes later, you stand in front of the mirror and try to force your flesh into another shape and cry. but before that—nothing. before that, time in your head. before that, your body is off limits, it is off screen, it is off radar. you drape yourself in a cloak woven from words. each word: a promise, a brand, a fence, a gate, a pillar.
the feeling of hands on your body. one hand. many hands. the feeling of eyes on your body. the feeling of hands long after they are gone. you are here for the consumption of others. this body is not yours. you can never remember what it is like not to feel this way.
sometimes you fill yourself up with someone else. feel them pulsing under your skin. feel every eye movement like it’s a brush stroke. feel the position of your limbs like a clay sculpture. the clay—the feeling in your hands shaping it, slip slick slide—feel your voice in your throat. sometimes you fill yourself all the way up with someone else and for once you can feel yourself brush against the insides of your skin. those are good days, foreign days, days like magic.
bodies. everything is bodies here. the word scratches against you, like barbed wire, like the tag in the back of your shirt. the feeling of eyes on your body. the shaping of the clay. you stand in front of the mirror. a grim smile. your eyes on the bodies of others. you imagine the feeling of bodies together. there are fingers in your hair. one warm body in front of you and one behind.
the way you look in the mirror, some days, and see yourself. the way your skin itches some days, and some not. you fill your body up with someone else just to feel the inside of it, and it is like learning the feeling of the brush against the canvas. these pictures are copies but the hand on the brush is your own. you look out of your eyes. you learn to have a body slowly.
Statement about these works:
I wrote “the art of learning to have a body” during the first few years living on my own in a much larger city than where I had grown up. Most of my friends were queer and trans college students, many of them majoring in gender and sexuality studies, and I was struck by the obsession with bodies both in scholarship and in social spheres. This piece was my attempt to reckon with the discomfort I felt with my physical self, even before I realized I was transgender, and how I slowly was coming to a new understanding of my body in this new environment.
“Thunder, Wrote the Serpent” is a love letter rooted in Anishinaabe cosmology. It started as a exercise in which I attempted to write something brimming with as many references to the Anishinaabe stories I knew as a non-Indigenous person might drop references to the Bible or European literature. Yet I wanted to do this in a way that was not full of “obviously Indian” imagery. I hope that people who are not Anishinaabe may feel somewhat lost and unlettered while reading this piece, but also that they can nonetheless feel the strong emotions that I tried to infuse through this alternate set of world-moorings.
the art of learning to have a body
The staccato clip of punctuation-driven meter and a compelling use of second person create such an incredible piece here. So many well-crafted aspects, and also such an ask for vulnerability (from the poet and the reader): to be inside of learning to have a body when parts of it have been taken or were never quite right. This is a long learning and especially complicated for folks who are both indigenous and outside of Western gender norms, and the images in this piece bring that learning life into focus. So resonant.
Thunder, Wrote the Serpent
“I’m praying for object permanence when you blink” – for me, this line works like stage magic. The image is both clear and implied, exactly what you think and also something else, and such a human wish. So much of this piece, including the last moment, states boldly but points toward mystery and underlayers, and I keep finding more with each reread.
- Arianne True
Thunder, Wrote the Serpent
I wait for you at the kiss of the stars against the horizon, when the spin of the earth says yes and wolverine comes streaming down from the sky, the fall of icy rocks from the void. I wait for you at the hole where the birds of summer meet the southern winds and I pray because it’s been a long long time since your mouth met mine. Underneath the freeze my scales have gone sharp in your absence, awaiting your electric breath. I’m praying for object permanence when you blink and I think I’m starting to feel the way I did in the beginning, you know, when you wet your wings and we created beautiful scars. I can’t be held responsible for the absence of wolves but I am made of copper lynxes and dinosaurs and I am willing to take the blame. All I want is for you to love me like a thunderstorm, like there’s not the history of an entire planet between us or the sound of a rattle in your dreams when you sleep. Can you find the ghost road that leads toward home? All I can tell you is that when you cry, it’s water that falls from your eyes.