“They called Peter the Great White Father, prostrating themselves [lying down] before him; and he liked this tremendously, so that it was not really good for him.
“The great white father,” he would say to them in a very lordly manner, as they grovelled at his feet, “is glad to see the Piccaninny warriors protecting his wigwam from the pirates.”
“Me Tiger Lily,” that lovely creature would reply. “Peter Pan save me, me his velly nice friend. Me no let pirates hurt him.”
She was far too pretty to cringe in this way, but Peter thought it his due, and he would answer condescendingly, “It is good. Peter Pan has spoken.”
–Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
This gap-toothed boy-wonder smiles at me and I don’t know whether I want to watch him glide through saccharine skies or to curl up in the space between his teeth or to get lost inside the empty hours straight on to morning and never land or to wear him down like the bare ground that falls prey to my dance. They’ve stripped away my identity and taken away my voice with the flags of their pirate ships, the faux furs of their lost and found boys, the pale pinks of their arms. In their gaze, I am allowed only to dance, to speak words with my legs that do not belong to me. I must dance for him, show him that despite these shackles, I am still proud. They mistake my pride for snobbery, I know. In the pictures, my nose is drawn too upturned, they are not accustomed to my raised head—my neck hasn’t collapsed under the pressure. For a moment, I open my eyes during the dance and catch sight of another pair of brown eyes, slightly veiled from under fiery bangs and the imitation war bonnet hanging down his back—a fool’s crown. Those eyes undress me, instead of reading the stomps of my feet, the waves of my arms. I want to call his name and tell him to leave but there is power in naming things and he already has far too much.
This eternal boy-thing straightens his spine and salivates, lapping up my pain and turning it into desire. He whispers limp promises and licks his lips in tune to every drum reverb, every heart murmur. I cannot close my eyes again, I cannot focus on myself and my histories from underneath his gaze. He mistakes this for consent and jumps up on an offbeat to join my dance. Under these new rules, this new gaze, I am not allowed to say no. He flails, recklessly, and none of his limbs sing like they’re supposed to. This is a language I cannot speak. These are not words, only mistakes. Face to face, I can see that he’s not the stardust we were told he was, but rather, he is the ash that falls from Neverpeak Mountain, fairy phlegm, mermaid poison. Our noses touch and his mouth opens like a cavern of teeth, showing empty shells. He croons, “You’re a good one, aren’t you? I’ve always wanted a Picanninny,” and floats off hollering and winking and I try to yell for help but he has sucked me dry and it’s then that I know that my words are numbered. This boy that continues to hold me in the gap of his teeth even when he cuts me loose from the pirates’ rope.
This boy that has stripped me of my language and of myself.
This boy who will never learn, who will always be able to fly without restraints, without bounds, without silence, without time.
This boy who will never land.
Kiki Nicole is a writer/poet currently living in Portland, OR. Their work has been published on Bitchtopia Mag, The Pulp Zine, and Voicemail Poems. They are currently the Director of Operations at Where Are You Press. Find them at kikinicolepoetry.tumblr.com