bennett joan nieberg

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When people ask me where I’m from I answer based on where we are now; my friend says she can trace the wav of a word graph back to the spoken syllable, but I prefer another origin, the first mouth to speak it, cord crystallizing in the throat, thickening—

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I’m sorry, I don’t know how to talk about who I am without mentioning who I was.

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I whisper, I deepen, I come inside from the rain, dressed in lace, skin translucent, voice thick as the man’s grip around my waist, elbow in the groin, stern whip throat no, who gets to speak, who gets to apologize?

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I’m sorry, it’s difficult for me to talk about who I am without addressing how I am perceived.

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I am taught to yell fire.

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I watch a man walk into his apartment and turn on the lights with his voice. Every household AI is feminine, he does not say please, does not say thank you, who gets to take, who gets to give, who gets to turn the lights on?

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A room so quiet you could hear an octave drop.

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I’m sorry, I’m losing my voice. In transition, I remember the word sorry like my mouth made the shape of its origin.

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The voice deepens to indicate dominance; in the beginning was a word and it sounded like something guttural, one long syllable of ownership.

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I didn’t know men could speak so softly until I sounded like one.

bennett joan nieberg (they/them) is a queer Jewish poet pursuing their MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University. They are a Pushcart Prize nominee and their work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Delta Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Entropy, Western Humanities Review, The Indianapolis Review, and Pretty Owl Poetry, among others. They are a co-founding editor of the journal What Are Birds?

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