Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen

-May Swenson

When craning my neck, vertebrae rose like stegosaurus plates—
maybe a primal defense
provoked by my reptile brain. Arms & legs also of the bird people,
if I had to escape
my only hope was to out-run the lions taking stock. I had to grow
my bear, throw
my body to the racks—but every repetition betrayed this staging for its lack.

The form I see in photos is not the body I see in the mirror. Whereas
that striation, these
glass wrists. Whereas that broad chest, this crooked spine. The body
is a difficult animal
to share space with—always shifting size & shape so the soul can't
settle in. So the margins
of dignity & dynasty seldom hold. I want a dark island, or some armor that fits.


Do I skip the gym to write these poems?
Risk a film of fat to coat my bones?
If I connect the scars from these surgical incisions,
my torso holds a ragged greater-than symbol.
What is my value today?
It depends on which men later stand next to me,
what I see that day in the mirror:
Do my shoulders roll forward?
Skin doughing between chest & ribs?
Scarecrow legs poking through billowy pants?
If I lose ten pounds to prevent another blood clot,
is my body dense enough to brace the bloated shadow collapsing into it?


This body will fail me, I know.I know
each cellular replicationdegrades

the connections. Already my knees
swell & ache.Already my teeth
loosenat the root.Sometimes this arm

throbs to remind mewe survive
by the slimmest margins—a gap
in the teeth
of Time’swhorish gape.Still,

I return to the body.
I relishits angles & genius.
The way itholdsthe voice
rattlingmy ribcage.

I climb the rafters,sprint across
city bridges, throwiron plates overhead
only becauseI am able.

But show mehow
to lovea bodywithout
the needto grind it
into an imagethe worldis willing
to reflect.

The body is a difficult
at least
I know
what it eats.