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Self-Portrait as Tiona by I.S. Jones

Self-Portrait as Tiona
I.S. Jones

Eight strokes in,
somehow you’re panting & spent,
slumped in the corner of the bed
as though you’ve done something here.
Ask       You didn’t finish?
Smile. I think of how men
want daily trophies
because they performed.
I count each throb
until you shrivel into yourself.
Eight strokes. Ten next time.
You’ve bested yourself
Then six,
back to eight.
You sweat, it’s incredible
how much you sweat from such little labor.
Sometimes I lay still. You don’t notice.
I say       Maybe one day you’ll fuck me
as well as you pontificate about the world.

You say   Be fair to me.
Call me cruel for rewriting history,
for saying you don’t understand no or boundaries.
There’s a dark joy in me that laughs at your meager gifts.
I am cruel, but I didn’t rewrite a thing, babe.
You’re not a monster, just a man.
Truly, you hate my guts because
you could never reach them.


Times I wanted to rewrite my history, it was because of a desire to erase the violence done to my body. It was almost always a deep want—to remove all traces of who I have been, to ferry the carapace that is myself back into the darkness where nothing existed. Times I wanted to rewrite my history, I yearned to be obliterated into a million fragments that it would have been impossible to put me back together again.

Has someone ever ransacked your body as if burglars searching for something valuable. And have I ever told you that it doesn’t have to be that way ever again.

I have been called cruel for wanting to love myself more. Selfish, too, and a whole plethora of names. At first it filled me with dread—but then I told myself isn’t it time that I not diminish myself for anyone. Isn’t it time to embrace my muchness.

Perhaps the wounds that would take a long time to heal are the ones inflicted by those that, when unmasked, reveal the faces of those you loved. Or thought you loved. Or have loved. And perhaps the wounds make the map of who you are now.

Isn’t my body a growing list of catastrophes—and isn’t that part of loving. Maybe it’s not about rewriting but reclaiming. Maybe it’s finally seeing that which has filled the husk. Here is my portrait—if you see my pleasure and my power burning hot and bright, it is because I have given myself to myself.


This poem appeared in Spells of My Name by I.S. Jones, published by Newfound Press, 2021. Shared here with profound gratitude.


Read more works by I.S. Jones • Find books by this poet • Or view my library


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Spells of My Name by IS Jones

Comments (2)

  • Mini

    This is so powerful. I needed this.


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