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Three Poems

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Monster Talk

Your eyes narrow on me. You want me hollow—skin attached only to a scaffold where lungs, liver, thyroid, membranes hide from your look of, You can’t possibly know a man’s fist? I tell my cheeks, Be stable. I tell my heart, Suture close. Wounds not allowable here. & the stale space between our breath elongates across the physical gap between us. I hold very still & think of Evelyn. Grandma Evelyn, who put cold washcloths to my forehead when the light sensitivity hit. She’d hold my chest down with her hand, Hold still, Felicia. Only still and the ache knows to leave. Her remedy never fully cured me, yet I learned how exhale transforms a severing mind & here under florescent lights my knees go limp, my torso settles into my abdomen & my eyes meet yours & our tongues silent. All the fists I’ve known: Fist of my brother with the kitchen knife. My hair braided in fists & the sound of my forehead on concrete. Fists at my jaws. Fists at my sternum. Fists at my back, my skull, my ribs, my pelvis, inside my vagina without consent. Fists with my wrists curled inside them, broken off & somehow still attached to my body. Fists pointed at me before strike, strike, strike. My fists unable when my body ripens in the first morning light. My fingers unable now, to contract at your look—my therapist says I withhold expressions of anger. Fists of Jose Francisco Senior purpling my mother’s flesh; the reasons my brother legally changed his name. Inside a cranium tolls: Can we map the genetic passing of father’s fist to daughter’s fist? Fists tear my sweater’s shoulder before heave of my six-year-old frame into the snowbank. The same knuckles turn the steering wheel into a Dairy Queen’s parking lot to buy me ice cream before I learned Chirophobia means the ‘fear of hands’ & I want Fūstphobia from Old German to mean ‘fear the five in huddle’ & yet I dislike my therapist. A history of fists charts—a strange cartography of what my body holds. Now, you see in my retinas your own broken questions, a dereliction of form & we release without words.

Chirality

If I cross paths with myself on the sidewalk, I’m not sure I will recognize
my own
face. Phone down, I consider the gravity of such interaction. Mirrors
reflect a flawed duplication, a reversal perpendicular to surface. I am
an optical effect & also the optics in creation— a geometric
 
consideration of my structure; how 3-D of me. I think
of Mel’s new printer—five hours of molten extrusion & the plastic heart
warps on one side, sunken. It’s just practice, she smiles. Next time,
it’ll be perfect, her fingers grip red into the camera. The human body
 
spores a litany of no-next-time scenarios; an almost statistic. In birth,
we learn how a body makes another body, how teeth fall out with promise
of other teeth, how opened flesh may be sutured, how one hair falls
& another burrows from scalp. A lacrimal bone lines each eye socket,

scalelike

 

& thin. A face comprises of fragile patchworks of collagen & calcium; I forget
the delicacy of composition; then a finger slices & I am all blood & also all
metal
in saw at my own hand. Here, at the altar of the amygdala again in tuck
of hippocampi—Oh Lorde, how I am more than a casualty[1]; how silence
 
succumbs & I am daughter of doubt; a limbic system born of another
limbic system. How whiteness wants to swallow my veins, pull my spine
through incisors—a meal to wipe from chin, wash hands & be done. I know
the suicide rate for every hundred thousand Latinx, 40-something woman
 
holds at 2.6%. Scare tactic of my voice/not my voice—to unlearn the weight
of domination, I must quiet the sharp echo inside first, the voice with arms
in waive, in plead go back in, you can’t handle all these prisms; the thing
about mirrors lies in flawed duplication. Only two enantiomorphs
 
ever exist: object & image. Sponges absorb nutrients from the sea floor
in their porous bodies. No brain. No nervous tissues. All survival. To learn
of self beyond the eyes: a collection of anatomical & electrical systems
in evolution in string to a skeleton. The organ wants what the organ wants
 
& hangs behind my ribs—object of all objects; my circulatory
energy. & in these surfaces of tissues, I discover my singularity
amid the copies of self. I consider the octopus. Octopi & squid harbor
three hearts: one systematic & two to force blood through gills. Five
 
aortic arches in the earthworm segment the body to pump blood. A hagfish
contains four hearts. I look at my face in the mirror. My own écorché
set against a razor white background[2]. I reach inside my chest, fingers grip
four chambers in swell & beat; I hold the muscle up to my eyes, then glass.

[1] The phrase “how I am more than a casualty,” is in direct conversation with the quote, “I am not only a casualty,” from Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” from Sister Outsider.

[2] The phrase “a razor white background” is in direct conversation with the quote “a sharp white background” from Claudia Rankine’s, Citizen: An American Lyric.

 

Meditations on Lines

Water takes the path of least resistance. Any competent plumber spouts this tried & true logic. Water disobeys. Water wants what water wants. Water claims & claims. If you live in the desert long enough, you become watchful of water. Water makes up 83% of lungs; 74% of brain & heart. Tuning fork of organs. Protective. Even, our watery bones. You meet the saguaro & touch your clavicle in kindship. What you can lug around. How roots tendril inside a body. You wonder how long before the spikes & spindles evolve you.

))))((((

Before I was a cell, I was a whisper of a cell from another cell. A longing.

))))((((

Our fingers between the chain-linked fence. Our silhouettes cast into pool before our bodies. Water glistens mercury in moonlight. Our skinny limbs under layers peeling onto cement. Under the diving board, you enter me, up to knuckles. My frame squirms in the chlorine. You bring your finger to your nose. “You don’t smell like a dirty taco.” & I see muscles constrict along your shoulder blades, your frame pulls out of the wet.

))))((((

Count 499 seconds: the time for light to leave the sun & hit earth. About eight minutes. We label this number, one; one Astronomical Unit. We define. & from our definitions, causality in abundance. The psychologist duo Dr. Susan Fiske & Dr. Shelley Taylor coined us cognitive misers. Our brain tendrils & pathways not unlike water, in search of facile, of ease. Why scale the redwood when the stream carries our bulbous bodies in gentle sway?

))))((((

Nothing about the human body suggests effortlessness.

))))((((

After the plumber augers the main sewer line, he stands on the basement steps & says, “You seem like clean people,” & continues his story about a slum lord who, “had 15 Latinos living in a basement knee-deep in feces.” He groans a chuckle. My organs flinch & my cells swell. My ears fill; I’m fifteen again under water, lungs in burn & his voice muffles away as I sink further below surface.

))))((((

Perhaps Fiske & Taylor got it wrong; the body made to act in, suggesting environment & in turn, be acted upon, suggesting relationship. We define to feel whole. We define to use the tongue & teeth & mandible & epiglottis to construct home in a language full of gaps; a language that, at times, despises us. Lungs & throat & air swirl & a voice emerges. Amiri Baraka said, “Context…is most dramatically social.”[1] Our definitions fail in the linear. Think of the zigzags, the rounded curves of any context filtered through veils of haze in our hippocampus. Did we forgot the circulatory systems of veins, arteries, vessels, & nerves twisting inside of us?

))))((((

Maggots collect in a tiny inlet of plastic filled with water after 22 hours of rain. Half of the cream, cylindrical bodies float, still. The other half writhe & circle the dead. If design exists here, Frost, what horrid spell cast.

))))((((

Light bends by itself. In 94.36 million miles, the sun’s rays reach our pupils. Any physics textbook tells us light travels in a straight line. Yet, we now know light bends by itself. Light travels in curves without external influence.

))))((((

Our walking circuitous solar systems under flesh.

))))((((

A lesson in windows. Corneas hold the power of refraction; the cornea bends rays through the pupil to enter us. The face: a camera & our irises: shutters. Collection built in our compositions. Ciliary muscles mold the lens’ shape, bend here flatten there, to focus light & images on the retina. The rods & cones of us in photoreceptive cells. How a definition bends to desired shape. Fenestrae in the brain, in the lungs, the throat. Open the transom. Breathe.

))))((((

Women develop complete sets of cells. I develop from ovum living inside my mother’s ovary while inside my grandma’s womb. I begin immature cell from immature ovum inside a womb. I am a woman of a woman of a woman. Interior ghost in haunt.

))))((((

You take me to the edge of nothing. No longer palimpsest for your butchery. I wring my shins & torso & spine & forearm; collect my own fluids. Drink.


[1] From Amiri Baraka’s essay, “Expressive Language” found at Poetry Foundation online

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About the Author

Felicia Zamora is the author of six poetry books, including I Always Carry My Bones, winner of the 2020 Iowa Poetry Prize (University of Iowa Press, 2021).

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