"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison


American Girl, Kitchen Floor

American Girl, Kitchen Floor

    I sit on my kitchen floor at 1:02 am eating deep fried pork intestines with my fists. I got drunk at Asia Kitchen again (most authentic in town, Yelp says), and carried home styrofoam leftovers in the backseat of Becca’s yellow car. Everyone’s left my house. They stayed until we ran out of tortilla chips and pens. The tiny cylinder still plays D’Angelo on shuffle. This makes my body think it wants to seduce the pork intestines. This word is a euphemism. My girl-body didn’t create seduce. My girl-body created more bodies. It created hunger. I am so hungry. It is Friday now. I am still on the kitchen floor. I need to get off the kitchen floor because I’m teaching a Vietnamese man minimal pairs over Skype in seven hours: the differences between found and phoned; each and inch. The slight ways that teeth and tongue can slide past each other differently to make big international meetings run smoother. All of these things happen in my mind at once. I need to stop describing things using the words tongue and meat. I’m a teacher now, and I’ve been warned about habit-words. When I teach, I wear a Playstation headset so my every sound can be heard. He sits in Ho Chi Minh city, at his office desk after work. He is a software developer with PayPal. He sends the money through the air. I sit on my kitchen floor, keys covered in oyster sauce. My hair falls in, and I scoop it out. My hair is dark and two-and-a-half-feet-long which doesn’t always make me a coherent picture. It makes me very much a girl-body, which probably looks goal-enough for those around me. But really, I grew my hair out again because it makes me feel like a squid with a million tiny, powerful tentacles. When I walk, it brushes my biceps like a cape, and the tickles are my little secret. This is really my big secret, too— that I’ve stopped doing things for the sake of the shine, but haven’t abandoned the physical completely. I don’t care about the sorting and hanging of linens anymore, but I am more solidly positioned behind my eyeholes. I am taking notes now. I’m giving myself the hunger and the food. I suck the oyster sauce off the ends of my hair, and this is a new physical experience. Newer than the pig intestines. I am a mess this year. I happen to have been born into this body, to have lived in English, and that is my only merchandise. 

    I open Skype, tongue still numb from the spice, meat, Bud light of the night before. Time to send the sounds. It’s true that I’ve learned the names of some sounds (preposition, definite article, uncountable noun) as a result of my own conscious work. But I have no idea where they came from.


Katie Culligan (she/her) is an essayist and poet in Knoxville, TN. She is the winner of the 2018 Michael Dennis Award for Poetry and the Margaret Artley Woodruff Award for Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee. Her work appears, or is forthcoming, in Columbia Journal and American Chordata Magazine. Website: katieculliganwriting.com, Twitter: @overcomplikate

Thanksgiving, 2014

Thanksgiving, 2014

The End of Ed

The End of Ed

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