Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#BLauthor13: Sara Biggs Chaney

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#BLauthor13 is Sara Biggs Chaney.

Sara Biggs Chaney received her Ph.D. in English in 2008 and currently teaches first-year writing in Dartmouth's Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Her first chapbook, Precipice Fruit, was released by ELJ Publications in October 2013, and her second chapbook, Ann Coulter's Letter to the Young Poets, is forthcoming from dancing girl press this summer. Sara's poems and flash fictions have recently appeared (or will soon appear) in Word Riot, PANK, SunDog Lit, Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, Menacing Hedge, Whiskeypaper, and other places. You can catch up with Sara at her blog.

To My Bully, Regarding That Shit You Pulled Before The Internet

Jennie, if you were 12 today you’d be famous. The predators of junior high are viral, tweeting, damn, they’re trending. Two tweens arraigned for stalking some poor girl to death, Jennie, that’s how they roll in 2013. Like wild cats after a prolonged stay on the Island of Dr. Moreau, iPhone claws welded firmly to their hands, prosthetic hate machines that reach from here to whatever remote place you might dream up to hide from the power of connection (can you hear me now?). We’ve got good reason for worry, Jennie, what with the guns and the cellphones, what with the way everything seems to be going.

Almost quaint, that memory of you writing “Sara Biggs is ugly” on the bathroom wall with a permanent marker. We thought that was permanence, God, we had no notion.

Do you ever think you’d be suspended for that shit these days? I remember how, when I first saw it, I shut myself in the stall to read it for awhile and cry. How’d you know I was in there? Your conglomerated voice carped against the stall door. “You stupid, ugly bitch,” I believe you said, “I’ll kick your ass.” You pushed me against a locker, gave me dog biscuits at lunchtime, drew a gun and aimed the picture at my head. Oh, but your claws were so short. (I wonder if the little girl inside suffers from claw envy, I wonder, do you?) In the end, you are nut-shelled by place and time, since past. Back then is shrink-wrapped on a shelf that only you and I can access. Like a demon-possessed relic in the basement of an exorcist.

Almost cozy, the way no one has to know about any of it unless we tell them. Will you tell them, Jennie?

I can’t help but think, if you and me were 12 today, how differently it might play out. You’d pen your messages on my Facebook wall. The pile-on would, no doubt, be epic. Sara Biggs, you stupid ugly bitch, why don’t you die…would you, Jennie? Pull your phone and type to kill?

Back in that bathroom stall in 1990, in came Ms. Peroski with a can of Sherwin Williams Patient White. By the end of recess, she’d laid a blanket on my shame.

And down in the exorcist’s basement, I found a spot for you between the clown from Poltergeist and the puzzle box from Hellraiser.

I brush you off sometimes, toy with your blunter edges, bleed a little feeling for the winsome dangers of the past.

Co-ed Stacia Fleegal on "To My Bully...": Poems referencing pop culture tend to be lighthearted, so I was drawn to Sara’s piece because of its dark commentary on bullying. I don’t know if bullying is happening more, or if we’re just hearing about it more, but Sara’s poem makes timely and urgent reference to the epidemic. When her speaker says, “Almost quaint … God, we had no notion,” my heart jumped a little. When she used the phrase “pull your phone and type to kill,” I found myself nodding. And at the end, when she acknowledges her experience being bullied as a “winsome danger,” I thought how poignant and graceful a point she’s making: that being pushed around, whether via a smart phone or a loaded weapon, is a form of small-scale terrorism, and wouldn’t it be a sad relief to go back to the days when a slander on a bathroom wall was the worst that could happen to a kid? Rather than hide from past abuse and “the power of connection,” Sara wrote a poem.

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