Unclean I.

No matter how hard I scrub my feet, this holy ground still deems me unclean.

In this crisp mountain stream, the water of an unfamiliar terrain, I begin a futile attempt to wash away my sins. My once-white dress, stained with earth from my childhood home, serves as a reminder that I cannot cleanse myself of where I am from (a community with a staggering teen pregnancy rate and an abstinence only education). My anxieties surface as I find both solace and frustration in the repetitive action. The harder I scrub, the dirtier my skin becomes as the mud from the dress seeps into my pores. As Unclean unfolds, my body becomes numb from the frigid water. I rub my flesh raw beneath the cotton, but remain otherwise unchanged. Societal pressures remind me that my worth lies within my body and this compulsion to cleanse stems from the guilt I have carried around since my adolescent years. I remain uncomfortable in both my skin and my sexuality, finding it difficult to come to terms with being a woman unwed from such a conservative home. In the river, I join a history of women washing, gathering and providing for a family I do not have. Unclean has allowed me to acknowledge and release inner turmoil through repetition and contemplation on expectations and realities.

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