Emily Ramser is a queer activist-teacher-scholar-poet living in Denton, Texas where they write, collaborate, and perform with the creative collective Spiderweb Salon and study blackout poetry. Check out their history of blackout poetry at https://www.thehistoryofblackoutpoetry.org/ and follow them on Twitter @RamsersRhetoric.”
i saw a dead raccoon on the side of the road while following my mom to tmobile
when i was in first grade, i had to give a presentation on raccoons,
where they lived, what they ate, and how they touched everything,
using their hands to see instead of their eyes.
my mom used to yell at me in target for touching everything on the shelves,
dragging my finger along each folded towel, roll of toilet paper,
and can of green beans.
when i asked her about raccoons’ hands, my mom printed
a black and white grainy photo of them on the printer in
the corner of our living room that whirred and cried.
she helped me glue the close up of their fingers
to my cardboard trifold with a purple elmer’s gluestick
that was too thick for me to fully wrap my fingers around.
i tried to put my hand palm to palm with the photo
but my fingers were too long and palm too broad
and my thumb stuck out too far sideways.
i sat in the living room, staring at pictures of raccoons for hours,
never having seen one in real life; mom said they didn’t live in our town,
only in the forests with tall trees and clear streams.
when my first grade teacher asked me to stand up at my desk to present,
i opened my mouth only for my front tooth and blood to fall out.
raccoons lose their baby teeth around fourteen weeks; i was six years old.
i took my tooth to the bathroom and washed the blood from it,
turning it over and over and over in my hands, pretending i was a raccoon
washing a crawfish in a river in the woods where the trees were taller than me.
when i was in fourth grade i read a book about coonhounds
who chased raccoons up trees and bayed until someone came
and shot them, letting their bodies fall to the ground.
when i turned ten, i started climbing trees at the boys & girls club.
the jumping down was the worst part, always terrified
i’d fall and break my fingers trying to catch myself.
i climbed trees till high school when two boys
chased me into that tall dead one outside the bank
and laughed as i sat on a branch unable to come down.
when i was twenty-five, i followed my mom’s suv
as we tried to find the tmobile store without gps
but she took a wrong turn down a back road
with trees on either side, branches overlapping overhead.
no radio station or signal could to reach us, so i watched the road
until i saw the body of a raccoon on the side.
i slowed down, preparing to stop. i wondered if
it had been chased to the road or had it fallen from a tree.
i’d still never seen one in real life before
and wanted to put my hand against its, compare fingers,
but its hands were outstretched with its fingers reaching just over the white line,
broken and crooked from cars driving over and over and over them.
but my mom called me, saying she’d gotten her gps to work.
i tightened my grip on the leather steering wheel and sped up,
leaving it behind, so i wouldn’t lose her.
i have never been a mother
but today i have given birth to a hundred mosquitos
from the belly of the firepit i’d left forgotten
in the backyard, letting it swell and rust
with stagnant summer storm water,
become bloated with unseen larvae
till i knocked it over while watering the plants
i keep buying from the nursery and murdering,
releasing these insects, these children, into the air,
where they descended upon me, angry