Volume 31, Number 2

34 Years Later

I will not calm down. I will not
be reasonable. I will not lower my volume

or stay seated because you can’t stand
the noise. My emotional labor is measured

in decibels and tiny footprints smeared with time.
I spent three decades in a box

the size of a whisper. Every night I binged
on razor blades and purged a thousand words

in font so small they disappeared by morning.
A decade later, I remember: metal

tastes like blood, an orphan’s tiny hands
hold the heat of a hundred

shaken snow globes, and lips
are steel guitar strings tuned too tight

to be plucked. Once I rationalized
so hard I burst an eardrum.

Now I hear the echo of my own heart beating.

—Mara Lee Grayson