Forgive me my salt

‘WHEN I SAY I FORGIVE YOU, KNOW THIS./ I did not bury the hatchet./ I have the hatchet in my hands./ I am building myself a new house.

That was the first poem I ever read by Brenna Twohy. I stumbled across it on tumblr and it hit me right in the guts. I do it a massive disservice by writing it all in a paragraph like that – the capitals are the title, and / indicates a line break. Therefore it is three lines. Three lines that I printed out and stuck on my wall. Three lines that made me google the author and head to book depository the next day.

It’s probably not coincidental that Brenna mentions two other poets whose work I own and admire – Tara Hardy and Clementine von Radics. Clearly I have a style I like, and they are all part of the same slam poetry scene in Portland, so they influence each other I guess. But it was an interesting surprise to stumble upon the familiar names.

Forgive me my salt covers a bunch of themes I relate to – feminism, love, dating, heartbreak, ex-boyfriends, anxiety, and abuse. It’s both incredibly strong and shockingly vulnerable. I started dog-earring the pages of poems I liked but stopped when there were more dog-ears than not.

It’s always a double-edged sword for me reading a book like this, because on the one hand I appreciate finding shit that’s so damn good and that so closely and eloquently expresses my own narrative, and on the other hand I’m like ‘goddamn, do you have to be so excellent?’ I am happy to admit I get both extremely emotional and extremely jealous when I read poetry like this. And I’m left wounded, because the words have slit me open like a still-gasping fish, and I’m also wallowing in a puddle of my own feelings of inadequacy. It’s a good place to visit occasionally, this sense of “I’ll never write anything as good as that, so why even bother?” but you wouldn’t want to live there. If you get anything out of it, should spur you on, not deter you.

Anyway this is not so much a book review as an opportunity for me to moan about my own not writing a book, and how much that bothers me, and how I have yet to do anything about it, which I think is mired in insecurity but might just be laziness. Or also something to do with a complete lack of spoons due to my chronic illness, but I really can’t use that as an excuse for everything.

I have a love of last lines. For me, everything in a poem is leading to that, that’s what you’re left with, that’s what should stick with you; leave blood on your tongue. And it’s something Brenna Twohy really really gets. So before I start going on again about myself, I’ll leave you with a couple of examples of that. And tell you to buy the book, obviously.


I guess I’ll tell it like this

did you know
sand dollars grow heavier skeletons
in rough water?

& did you know
young sand dollars
can’t make themselves heavy enough
so they eat pebbles
to weigh their bodies down?

& did you know
the things
just to keep this body
safe from the current?

& did you know
when I say the current
I mean
this body;

& did you know
there is a man
I can only talk about in metaphor,
the way his tattoos
make an avalanche
of my mouth

(even now)

& did you know
there are whole years
I have dropped
to the bottom of an uneasy ocean;

& did you know
this is how we evolve?
Hunted girls
grow shells
& they call us
“hard women.” 

As if survival
could ever be delicate.

As if we haven’t been chewing rocks
for generations.

As if we haven’t been rebuilding
our own bones.