The papaya, the lemon, the squash.
The everything going bad—not yet.
I can pickle anything I can save—still. And I am never still.
Still…at sixty-four here I am. Rise. This is age—still.
I have a passport to somewhere that does not
exist. As a white skin person with color
roots that do not show. My grandfather could not
have had the chance I have to walk at night
in a white neighborhood and nobody knows who I am,
until they know. And still… I am here. This is race—still.
An ivory castle, an ant hill teeming with fire ants, a
stop sign, the rich woman’s house my grandmother
cleaned, the rich woman was my English teacher. My
father beat me for wanting to go to the Ivy League
school, Sarah Lawrence—I could not want to go
where he did not go. So, I went—to the state school.
But, I went, and I did, and I still…I’m
never still. This is possession.
This is wanting—still.
The dark room without a light. The stars
blink at me to move along. I am less
afraid of a coyote than a man out
with my dog at night walking
it off. Walking off the fear of a pandemic virus.
Walking off the fear of—everything—
where are we headed?
Walking somewhere – my dog ahead of me,
Her ears pointing. She is…I am
never, ever still.
I am a rape survivor many times over, and I survived
to be this woman with a pen. And I am…
never still. Stillness as location.
For this is location—still.
A red apple on the teacher’s desk is never
enough if you are not in the class.
The guy said I wouldn’t get the job at seventeen
because it had to go to a boy even though I
created the job the summer before—
a park director in a dangerous neighborhood that I made
a park because no one wanted it. But I did. And I did.
I knew he was wrong, but it would be twenty years
before the words sexual harassment became a
tool I could use. Because…and still. I am
now. I am never still. This is gender—still.
I am a wave, a crash, a body among bodies
among bodies. I believe in people
fighting for what’s right. My wife and I
got married in 2008 and two days later
the state shut down gay marriage and we
spent our honeymoon protesting.
Her first protest sign,
“When do I get to vote on your marriage?’
And here I am. Still. Still protesting this shit, is
a sign I would use later. Still. I am never.
I am never still. And this is relationship—still.
It’s a long life, I say to students.
A lot can happen. Miles to go before you sleep.
A long road. At sixty-four I think, yes. Maybe yes, it is… A Wonderful Life.
I am never still.
This body I am. This story I am
is to be continued. And still.
For I am never…I am never still.
January 9, 2021
With thanks to LA’s Cuties Coffee Shop, Poetry Workshop
Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.