TARGET by Anna Keeler

My world was colored with odd numbers and sickled blood cells; for the life of me, I could never make it stop. The rest of me compartmentalized in maladaptive bones too lumpy for my arms and a brain produced milk for a lanky ovary. A brain that is repeatedly told that it is artistic, that it is bohemian, that it is gifted, gifted, oh so gifted for its age. It is no wonder it has been put to fanatical use.

This brain came with a Rolodex and a calculator, a camera and color pallet. It also came with a lifetime warranty: On Asperger’s, OCD, the disposition for schizophrenia.

/No wonder it never fit inside my head.

This too full brain is attached to this too small body that was bred in the backseat of a JEEP Cherokee. The girl who came with it was wanted but wasn’t. Was stillborn, but wasn’t.

/Poor baby, everyone knew I would be fucked up.

These fibers and marrow glands and not quite indigo eyes survived conception – or rather – digestion, after being rinsed and spun in pills like the spin cycle. That fetus survived long enough to grow arms and legs and make it out of the womb, even if I was purple to the touch.

I watched my body grow, then stop growing. Be exposed, then hidden. I watched, waiting for that brain to pulse out of my eyes. I waited twenty-two years for the day tears turned to brain juice, spilling the bits of untreated illness onto the table.

/There can’t be anything wrong with someone who should not be here at all.

When I caved, I caved hard and became a rabid animal, metaphorically chained out in the backyard like the bastard child I am. The collar around my neck turned my skin lilac. The neighbors chucked rocks over the fence while laughing. My tears were the reminder – I am a threat to the world. Later realized, the real threat was to myself.

Other beasts built on neologistic legs were thrown into my line of vision.

I do not deserve protection.
I do not fight back.

/I’m delusional. This pain only matters to me.

Even when the collar is gone, kicked to the curb, covered in urine, the world is still lopsided and in pain. Every odd number incurably composite; every hand that could not touch I now want wrapped around my neck. This girl that survived realizes vulnerability is not precious. I am smart enough to relish in pain. I wish I were a simple girl. Numb. Dumb.

A girl who felt the curls around cheeks, whose pink cheeks have sucked a dick for a McDouble deluxe, still considered brave even when my boots pulverized rained-on flower crumbs. A girl who could stomp my brain to mush in an ostentatious display? The rocks that had busted my head that now roars with applause?

/The target of protection and love and not assault.

What I get is a set of eyes that see a tapestry in skin, and a brain crushed with the yearning to hang mutilated arms from the walls. I wait for the skin to resurrect from the partition. But I can’t resurrect what should not be there. The blood stained paint tells the world I was created.

/Still a fuck up, but I do ‘fucked up’ well.

ANNA KEELER is a poet and fiction writer living in Winter Park, FL. Her published and future work can be found in, Deep South Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, After the Pause, The Indian Review, Pegasus Magazine, and more.


My essay “Target” began as a short project in a setting where my troubled, heavy writing was glorified. I was unwell and my writing reflected that, still, all I got was praise for digging into the gritty and dujour. One day, I told someone my ‘writing secret’ — trauma and mental illness, and in response was told I was lucky that those things happened so I could write the way I do. I don’t do creative nonfiction or lyric essay too often, but this is a piece I keep coming back to; despite the amount of writing I’ve done, this is a telling of my most authentic self, which both excites and terrifies me in sharing this.

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