This is a confessional collection of prose. Elysia Smith sits her younger self beneath a ghost light and pulls the most arcane questions out from her chest. She looks back on the origins of her own sexual identity, surfacing the candid ugliness that flickers in all instances of coming of age and sex itself. Gritty detail and exquisite retelling crash together to disrupt the orderliness of simplified femininity that comes from a small-town upbringing. Unruly challenges the norm and celebrates what it means to be imperfectly female and naturally sexual.
The mechanics of adolescent girl and boy intimacy turn like broken gears when the discovery of sex begin to spread across the page. Each move is an awkward one. Each encounter leaves a spark of desire behind as she tries to find her footing and fit into her own skin comfortably.
This was the half life
Of teenage desire, the point in which
I didn’t go down but let boys
Finger me, but never sex, not sex
By a degree of experimentation, Smith grips an understanding that most humans are naturally sexual beings. Although this is a grounding fact, her rooted definition of femininity becomes tenuous during the thick of her personally sobering, sometimes painful experiences. Smith puts a certain urgency into her prose. But simultaneously, she runs her hands over the gritty reality of sexual coming to.
I emerged in a foam
Of PBR, backlit by a Shell sign, lifting
The two slick bodies
With each squishing step, “I am
Sparkly with want, with what
Is to be, with what is” soaked
In the toxic brine of the White River
Pulling trash from my teeth
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