Caroline Kessler

“When people freed themselves they usually forced change on everyone else. In fact, the first thing people sometimes did with their freedom was to find another version of the thing that had imprisoned them.”

Rachel Cusk, Transit

I’m ready to tour around town in my cheetah coat, with my square head carefully screwed on. Pursue me, I whisper to the moss growing around the doorframe. I know I seem like a 1950s square, buying a house “upstate,” a friend says over the phone from the opposite coast. But hey, I was at a sex party last week. That’s very on-brand for you, I say. He describes the sauna, how everyone could finally snap the thread of tension. Mhm, I say into the device, wondering about different kinds of death, vibrations, how to live within a limited frame.

A man cartoons me into the frame, scribbling the hidden desire legible again. Whew. My chevron mouth cracks open, and a squiggle of a sharpie reveals what I cannot say. From my arm chair perch, I dangle myself like ash on a cigarette. Teeth full of manicured nails. I read on the internet that intermittent fasting is the new trend. It seems extremely convenient, if nothing else. Nothing fills me up these days.

You want me like water–as in thirst, but also fluidity. Following wherever you roam, holding open a linen jacket, which you step into like a swimming pool accepts its ripples. At the dinner party, you raise the first question: are you more interested in transcendence or immanence? Others raise glasses to celebrate a changing of political tides. I float into the kitchen, yank my neck away from my collarbone, hide out in the gossip fort. The men toast to the money they’re about to make. You ask, after everyone’s gone, what’s your secret?

Eula Biss writes, “It’s possible, I suppose, that all those married couples are just people, not especially interested in intimacy, who somehow ended up married.”

Under the mask, maybe you could see me for the animal I am, needing to go to the forest where I can strut around, chomp on twigs, avoid the reflection of myself in others. The furrow in my brow becomes a trench as I wrestle with the difference between need and want. I try unlocking my jaw, pop go those bones. There’s a hinge I have to unlock there. The currency of attention is the last thing left to be traded, bought, sold.

When I ask you to bury me in the sand, I’m saying, don’t forget me. You go to the place in your mind, and I mine. Your questions can’t be answered except through the body. Smoke hovers on the horizon, standard hazard. I spent years saying the unexpected and now I’m confetti, exploding with my submerged desire.

Caroline Kessler is a poet, editor, and author of Ritual in Blue (Sutra Press). She is the co-creator of The 18 Somethings Project, a writing adventure. Work and more at