Interview with a Body
what does it feel like to live in my body?
it feels raw and skeletal
a breaking of the bones
into meatless particles
what do I carry in my heart?
cigarette butts, irony, wrong interpretations of words
that haven’t been said yet
what does the world look like through my eyes?
a poem that needs to be redone
with a pen knife of love
how does it feel to look in the mirror?
I draw my initials in shower steam
and hope for someone to save me
what does it feel to take up space as me?
I press ‘delete’ over and over
a button that works on the keyboard
but not when you love someone
do I have back pain?
certainly, I’m thirty, don’t I look like it
through the screen?
what is it like to take a step in my shoes?
it’s watching eye movement
needing to be loved
a torture device
for the abused
wake up with dead skin under nails
and glass breaking between teeth
the room is painted velvet and cold
like the filthy insides of a used casket
crushed plaster cemented throats
skin caress by muddled fingerprints
there is something familiar in the air
the smell of feathers burnt by rain
enveloped by thickly layered darkness
like troubled letters ripped in pieces
weighed down by a glass tapestry
closed windows end with broken locks
My “Roommate” (A condensed sestina)
There’s a Christian Imperialist caged in the cavity of my chest.
She’s rattling my ribs as we speak,
Smacking her tin cup against the bony bars,
Trying to catch the loose change falling from my heart.
I swear, someday I’ll manage to suffocate her. Just not yet.
Someday sooner I’ll have to learn how to breathe around her.
My cavity, meant to be filled with air, is filled with her,
So my heart and lungs have nothing to pump
(besides the rattling coinage she sends through my blood,
and against my best wishes, my body circulates it.)
Please, I’m begging you, don’t hold it against me.
I swear, I’m going to drown her someday,
With a cup of tea rattling against it’s saucer,
I’ll fill the cavity with a boiling homemade concoction,
Something that will drizzle over my heart and through my ribs.
My only fear is that our hearts might be conjoined,
Her pulse pressed against mine, beating in synch.
I wish I could claim ownership of the cavity in my chest,
and evict her someday sooner,
But each of her rattling breaths is my rattling breath,
And her rattling tail tells me I can’t touch her yet.
She’s a snake wrapped firmly around my heart.
I swear, I’m getting rid of her someday, someday soon,
Please, please reader, don’t hold it against me,
It’s not my cavity. It’s hers.
This tower is shrinking inside with swelling walls and ceilings that hide me.
My might, wasted momentum on falling feathers shed by existence that grinds me to the bone.
My edges uncoil, spread out and run
to greet a world that is too heavy and too fast, and I blend
bleed with it.
I’m an American so I probably think of car metaphors a bit much. But in that sense, my body is my Honda.
No, I didn’t get a flashy sports car, or something with six cylinders under the hood. Not a heavy diesel with a deep horn and the ability to run over smaller vehicles. Not a petite and cute electric vehicle with a catchy Italian name. Just your average fuel efficient Honda Civic. Gets ya around, everybody has something similar, wear and tear pretty normal for the road.
I read a lot about how folks rail against the body they’re given, and thankfully I’ve never suffered that way. Maybe because I’m one of those take-what-I-get kinda folk who go with the flow by nature. Maybe because I didn’t get bullied too much and could wander off to my own drum. Maybe because I never really, ahem, used my body for interpersonal relationships until I was much older and didn’t care. Then it performed as an average Honda does - reliably, thank you very much.
Growing up I read tons of old school science fiction and fantasy. Some of my favorite authors were what I called “body swappers” - they enjoyed transposing their main characters into other bodies and then seeing how it played out. Put the old man in his secretary’s hot young body. Put the beat up, tired middle-aged housewife into a new, virginal witch and give her a unicorn pal. Put the feminist into a male with a harem, then put the misogynist into a female of said harem and see how they play out. You might think these kind of body-swapping ideas sound like some kid’s comic book but nah, these were the 60′s and 70′s and apparently enough adults daydreamed like this to warrant publishing.
I think we like to imagine what we’d be like if we were something else. How would we change? Would we act differently? Would we love differently? There are folks who argue no way, it’s the soul that matters; there are others who scoff duh, you can’t beat biology. Which is the right answer? Like everything, probably neither.
What I believe makes the difference is the kind of treatment your body gets you. As a Honda Civic, I’m pretty par for the road. I can be your daily commuter, or your starter car, or your passport for those budget road trip vacations. But what if I’d been given a Peterbilt monster? Would I have to act more diesel to live up to everyone’s expectations? Would I have to take long haul jobs and spend forever on the open road? Or what if I’d been given a Fiat? Would I zip around differently, unfettered by the extra baggage and leg room of a larger vehicle? Would I have to hit up wineries on the weekends or navigate parking garages my whole life?
If you’re stuck in a Peterbilt but you just want to sip wine and go clubbing on weekends, or if you’re a Fiat but you dream of hauling big loads, my engine revs for you. I wouldn’t begrudge either vehicle for driving down the road less traveled. Because my little Honda heart might also dream of cruising along the coast like a Porsche-y little number that screams “douchebag” and guzzles gas like nobody’s business, but still looks sexy with the top down and the breeze in its grills.
My lot is easier since Honda’s are middle-road vehicles anyway. Also unlike some I don’t believe my sole existence is defined by this body; as a reincarnation believer I honestly think my soul is shaped by its experience going through multiple bodies over the millenia, whether I remember each body or not. Like those scifi swappers this life is only one book on my shelf, and I’ll see how it plays out. Therefore rather than let my body forcibly shape my identity, or vice versa, instead I try to let my identity settle into my body. If something really goes against my grain, often it’s not my body’s fault -- it’s the surrounding stereotypes that society are pushing onto it. Which is why I fight for more equal roads for everybody to drive on.
I don’t need to be faster or sleeker. I also don’t need to be more robust or lifted. I just need to get to where I want to go - and unless that route suddenly requires snow chains or mud flaps I’ll just muddle through until my warranty runs out.
(hopefully my tires don’t go too bald though)
heart full of paper and ink
but hard to erase.
ache lurking deep
in your bones.
the face in the mirror
cannot be my own.
it doesn’t match.
in fact, nothing does,
my whole conscience is
pieces thrown together.
the world has all the colors
that it used to
but i don’t see them the same.
where did the
of life go?
i am small but i
take up too much space
i don’t deserve the place I occupy.
to look in the mirror
is not to look at me.
it’s the wrong shape.
the wrong size.
the wrong body.
everything about me is wrong.
the list of disorders
physical and mental
must be miles long by now.
and it’s only getting longer
with time and age.
i’d rather not know.
i don’t seem to scar
sometimes i crave the
battle wounds that others have.
but that would be proof
that i am real.
and i’m not sure i want to be.
i try not to think
too hard about my body
when i do it comes out like this.
poetry full of self loathing.
full of broken eyes.
i’d just rather not know.
i’d rather not know who i am
than face this
mirage in the mirror.
My body is mismatched and
a collection of stories
told in scars that won’t heal.
In this patchwork skin,
I am disconnected —
transposed by every glimpse
of what your gods
insist is a temple.
She is a waste of space.
Or at least that’s what she has been told
In reality, she is a goddess
Long blonde curls
Eyes bluer than the Pacific
Smile that lights up the world
Dimples that are perfectly placed
That’s not what she sees though
She sees how unsymmetrical her face is
She feels the constant back pain
She notices that once again, she can’t hear what someone has said because of her hearing loss
She gets frustrated because she once again cannot read her own words because of her blurry vision
What she doesn’t acknowledge is how
She spends her days helping others
She educates those who cannot educate themselves
She loves those who cannot love themself
And she takes in those who have no one else
All the while, she goes on believing she is a
Body in soul, mind, repute & face...
Body in soul.
It’s clean, it is not clean. It’s with me, it’s not. I can never be so sure. I know nothing about my soul. I think I wouldn’t know until the day I have read about in the holy books. Recompense. Judgement.
Body in soul can only hope. Hope I’m doing the right thing, hope my soul hasn’t gone dark and ugly. As far as I know, only one person knows the truth about my soul. And it’s not me.
Body in mind.
A beautiful mess, ugly mess. Beautiful pain, beautiful darkness. Ugly calm and ugly redemption. Never ever in one peace, never in one piece. My mind is the most fragile yet the most powerful. There is always something to think about, ideas churning and overlapping. I don’t stop thinking about one thing before another comes in. Thank stars for mental to-do lists which exist in my mess of words and non-words. In my mind, I’d decide to take a nap but then jump up at the first glimpse of an idea or another task to be completed. To be in my mind is to be stuck driving so fast for the rest of your life. It is to be in the ocean. Upclose, it’s disturbing and crazy but from afar, it is quite attractive, if I say so myself. Even though it means having a figurative headache everyday.
But to be in my mind is to wonder. What if? To be in my mind is to ask, what makes me so special when there are billions more like me? To be in my mind is to always see the bigger picture, every person alive filled into that world map in your geography class, and know that you are not special. A grain of rice in a sack grains.
Body in repute.
As I power-walk down the stairs, down the corridor, into the Principal’s Office, I know everyone is watching. If, perhaps they do not admire anything else about me, they admire my courage, outer dignity and attitude to work. My reputation preceeds me, so to speak. I’m that smart person who is some people’s role model. The one peope trust to get things done. Always thinking about speaking to the Principal on behalf of the people, going to the principal’s office to discuss college applications just so he can notice that I’m once again, being one step ahead of every other person. Striving for my future.
I guess the body in my repute is a lot better than the one in my mind. It's roses and violets. Asters and hyacinths with just a teeny tiny bit of weed. It’s impressive. The only other thing anyone’s reputation can be aside from disappointing.
Body in skin, body and face.
Sensitive. Interesting. Plain. Feels good sometimes. Other times, it’s just terrible. As I said, sensitive, that is, cannot be discussed. In other words, confidential. In other words, I’ll prefer not to talk about it. You’d have to meet me to know. Maybe someday. Hope I haven’t already come on too strong.
Hazel A. McLean
my happy little chaos
I wake up early. I never intend to, but I always do. When I wake, I make coffee everday. Usually two cups is all takes to get my day started.
I like to drink my coffee outside if I can, no matter the weather. I'm always tired, especially in the mornings because I go to sleep late.
Sometimes I think I'm a little mad. My day usually runs around 18-20 hours awake and 4-6 asleep, if I'm lucky. Some call that productive, but I call it insomnia.
When it rains, my ankle hurts. Only the left one. It's a leftover ache from years of playing sports as a kid. The doctor says it's arthritis.
I'm always late and I hate it. I wake up early, having all this time, and I always end up rushing around at the last minute. I don't know why I do that.
Most days, my favorite times of the day are when I'm driving by myself. I'd say I like the quiet because I live with two roommates and have a loud family, but that would be a lie. I blast music everytime I am alone in the car. I think I just like being alone.
I am busy, all the time. Not because I have such a busy life. I'm in college, but I'm single, I don't have a family to take care of, and I have few obligations. But, somehow I am always busy. It's mostly because I don't like being still for too long.
My days are fillled rushing from one place to another clutching a coffee in my hand, with dark circles under my eyes, and loud music playing in my car. And that chaos, it makes me happy.
When I come home in the evenings, exhausted and a little cranky from caffeine withdrawal, I see my roommates who are my best friends. We get dinner and watch some stupid show on TV and all laugh about something goofy one of us did that day. And, I'm happy.