when I say “okay” when someone asks me how it feels to be back

By Rodlyn-mae Banting

what i am trying to say is that i am happy here, where my feet are relearning rootedness, digging so firmly into the ground that it manifests in an ingrown toenail, and all my skin dead and alive merges into one until i am the carpet, until i am the hairball dried into that carpet, until i am the lemon zest blistering out of a cheese grater, until i am pulsing, no, bursting, because i cannot hold it any longer in
the small cave that is my mouth, this thing that tastes like happiness, because i feel alive again while the world outside is rotting and so it comes out of me as pus. it is 3am and jarek and i are contemplating the origins of yeast because we think it is something ancient, is it mold or is it bacteria and why the hell are white people so obsessed with it? we are laughing in that coded way that we are used to, like when i met his mom and whispered his dead name like a prayer in case i might need it, a hidden weapon underneath my tongue like it might offer me protection even though i never knew him like that, only ever knew him for what is ancient inside of him and there is nothing more ancient than december. in the shower i shave my pussy not because anyone else will see but so that i can see a mound, my mound, that budding mountain that be, the highest point i’ll reach for a while right between my legs & believe me when i say that the view is wilding. i let out a scream reserved for the brown girls so that i can hear it bounce right back at me, so that i can hear it again and again and feel less alone, hear it echo in this soil that we so foolishly mispronounced as dirt, burying my breath beneath the myth that in order to find yourself, you must stray far away from home.


Rodlyn-mae Banting (she/her) is a Filipina feminist educator, poet, and cat lover born and raised in New York. She is a Masters candidate in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Gender & Women’s Studies and co-hosts the podcast The Brown Girls’ Journal. Her words can be found/are forthcoming in Friktion and Marias at Sampaguitas. Find her on Twitter @fmnstmelodrama.

This piece is a part of DISTANCED 3.0.

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