Friday, November 21, 2014
The spine of the book of my body is my back.
Cracked, massaged, oiled, poked -
I stroke it to try and restore it
to original condition.
What was this story before it was read?
Before I was a walking memoir (or two or three),
what could one read in me?
Sinewy muscle, mucky blood, bright red heart.
Now it is hard to flip the pages
and see anything but tall tales.
I've pinned the wings of my shoulder blades
to the front and back covers,
splayed open my own breast
like the center of a meaty mystery,
taking the rhythm of my beating heart
and rhymed it into words, sentences, paragraphs.
I tire of this exercise - one that works
my mind more than my diaphragm.
This ongoing search for concepts to communicate
the pulsing organs of living inherently.
And yet this is the fate of this body:
bound to word with threads of paper,
tied to spine like the binding of feet
in another era. It sounds like torture,
and sometimes it feels like it, too. And yet,
on the page, in publication, others tell me
they appreciate my viscera, my brutal
honesty, which honestly is a result
of hunting myself ruthlessly, endlessly
seeking the real stories under the stories.
I cannot seem to stop at the skin -
I insist on breaking in to the vein,
to the artery, to the cellular level,
exploring each letter for my truth.
In doing this I find what? A mess
that's hard to make pretty again.
A thin writing of blood and flesh
that carries meaning beyond my body
into the eyes of others. Why this raw
enterprise? Why not the more truthful
lies of fiction, the disguise of journalism,
or my first inclination: ethnography?
Why do I insist on eating my own stories?
Is it possible to nourish myself
on resistance and regurgitation alone?
Do I have to be a victim of my own process?
My writing arm tightens, loosens,
reminds me this is all a choice.
Breathe into the words and worlds open
freedom hanging on the skeleton of certain stories,
so long as the intention is liberation
rather than the concrete that will eventually bury these bones.
I wrote this poem in response to my own prompt about reading this week. I was surprised at its visceral strength. Afterwards I realized I truly need to exercise more - winter settling in has disconnected me from running and other outdoor physical activities. And yet, this frustration - the energy of it - created a powerful, also truthful and questioning/searing poem. It's been a long time since I've written a poem like this. Hallelujah.