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Difficulty Swallowing, by Kym Cunningham

Some things in life stick to our throats. Whether it’s the crumbs of memory or modernity’s unsavory realities, we often reach for water just outside our grasp. We bite our tongues in defense, trying to swallow the shoulder-chip we realize isn’t a mirror: it’s one panel in a 99-cent store disco ball keychain, still tacky from the choking advisory. 

It might not make sense to you, but this was meant to be beautiful, to make you want it so bad you could taste it—a perspectival ambrosia, those points of view refracted in the brazen cracks and jagged pills. But perhaps the exposure of female experience is seven years’ bad luck instead.

I’ve been told my nectar lacks subtlety by people who know a thing or two about at least five things: displacement, alienation, the regulation of bodies both within and without control, the [un]common American narrative, loneliness. But the question is whether these things are all the same, that gunk on the melting pot’s mirrored backsplash we can’t seem to scrape off. If you can’t stand the heat it’s ‘cuz the kitchen’s on fire, we say, roof razing to burn.

In search of answers, you look down my throat, playing the dentist to thwart self-drought. You tell me that fruit acid’s been rotting my surface enamel, never mentioning the decay in the back of my teeth. And I smile in all-American beatitudes at the shallowness of the male gaze that always fails to penetrate what lies beneath.

Are you disoriented yet? Come. Drown with me in a puddle, face-deep.

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