Excerpt from “Copperhead”, A Novel in the Works

Dear Min. Bully Montgomery,

We come from generations of women, infatuated with misnaming our wounds. Our wounds are not signs of valor, as well you know. Our wounds are survival’s happenstance.

Certainly, you agree that ‘daughter’ has been a recurring wound for the women in our family. Daughter was indeed an unexpected wound for you, Bully. That’s why you named me Copperhead. What would you say to me at odd moments, such as prayers before sleep? Oh, yes. “From the moment you were conceived, I knew because I cried out to God. I asked him why had I been forsaken,” you would say as I nestled in my thin covers. “It was sharp and immediate, your conception. As if a pit viper had struck in the dark. I bled and bled, I hurt and hurt, but didn’t know why.”

And you are afraid, I know, because you still bleed. You are no woman with an issue of blood. You know that, don’t you? You are merely a woman. Undeniably a woman. You still bleed, though your breasts are lower than the sadness in your eyes. When bearing a child should be a distant memory, you still flow like a teenage girl. You have a habit of seeing curses where blessings bloom.

You know, it’s ironic mama. I understand what you meant long ago. Remember, when I was 4 and you said, “Copperhead, even when you smile, the things you say knick the bone.” And mama, do you remember what you asked me back then? You said, eyes averted, “Since you know so much little girl, what is your father’s name?”

The burning sting of your slap still echoes on my cheek. Good thing I am still “as dark as sin,” right?

I never understood, until now, why my cheek burned so. You asked, mama, and I only answered honestly. But, I get it now. It wasn’t my face you slapped, it was my father’s. He always did tell you the truth.



The Voice of Rahk-Lapis Lazuli

His voice is one you skip across a puddle or a pond with your favorite cousin. His voice is one you keep in a shoebox with the other odd things that caught your eye. His voice is lapis lazuli, too soft to set in rings, but hard enough to pierce ears. His voice is not diamond, it is not gem. His voice is rock, an arduous task to work, but I must, because his voice harmonizes with mine in its audacity.

His voice, like my own, sinks and blends within bodies of water. His voice, like my own, stands out in a sea of gravel. His voice, like my own, does not keep its shine in rings. Rather, Rahk’s voice sets best in pierced skin, or pinned to mom’s Sunday best, or resting by the heart on silver chains.

Here, I will explore Rahk’s voice. Here, I will clench my fist around it. Here, I will hold it up to the light to observe how it lusters, layers, and weighs. Here, I hope to chisel and polish Rahk’s voice into a poignantly intricate sculpture that flows like water. Over the next few days, weeks, and months, I introduce to you the unrefined voice of Rahk.