After Andrea Gibson

This is my body: feverish night, clammy eyes
squinting out the dawn. My hands fill with rain.
There is no place water won't reach, no secret
it holds without spilling. This is my rubber band
jaw, slinging silence at the moon. Stockpiling
words like two lone palms cupping a roof leak.
I give my arm to the monthly needle, the slow draw,

what stories does my blood tell? I want it to say
see, I am not sick, I chase fireflies in dizzy circles
because I'm learning how to generate light. Say
knotted tree climber, midnight spider web spinner,
whisper hoarder. Say I am the spider's caught meal,
the limping elm itself, charred, blooming and half-
dead, which also means half-alive, numb root
toes deep-sea dancing with earthworm infrastructure.

Be what my own skin loves: wind fingers drawing
pomegranate cheeks into starlings. A sky painting,
liquid sunrise I never thought I'd meet, a murmuration.
The slack O of awe against a storm's diagonal pound.
Be a shy glance across first date candlelight. Be the sweet
hours still to unfold. Be wingspan. An eagle never
underestimates its reach, it must open full to fly. Stretch

creaking arms wide so the world fits perfectly between them.
Knit every bone a lullaby cradle. Gather wood for fire.
Sing the pain that splits the quiet like a ripped canvas.
Sing it loud, sing the red that begs to be tasted
like a strawberry forgotten in the refrigerator's bottom
drawer, sweetness so ripe it strains, pulses like a vein.

How many times must I resurrect? The average
human breathes seven hundred million breaths
in a lifetime. I have never computed easily.
My spine holds thirty-three vertebrae folded
into a paper crane. It is always trying to fly, refusing
the wingless snake of its shape. My organs spoon
the snake's U-turns, each fleshed edge a jigsaw,
God-puzzle no doctor can decipher. I am a language

I don't speak yet. I learn new words when dreams
blanket, something about honey and blood tricks and
signal fire. Every word means magic.
Every word means pain. There are no antonyms here.
I am not opposed to my feet that don't always walk
right, there is no war between me and the brain
that frosts over like a windshield mid-January.

This is my body. It is an approaching train whistle.
Understand it means home. These are my arms,
they have held generations and my own withering
spine. They have delivered fairytales, quivered
around women they were instructed not to love.
They loved anyway. My arms do not obey,
do not rest when I warn of earthquakes. They say pain
is just another word for hope. They say learn

your language before it dies with you. They say
you are not dying, so walk to the store for toilet paper.
They say you are a kite with no string,
but the trees will hold you. The cold night
claws my fever. I thank sensation.
I thank the rising drum of hurry.
I thank Orion staring down at me like eight
unblinking eyes. I thank the quarters making bells
in my pocket and the heavy tired of my instructing body.

Holy is the body that keeps trying. Holy are the eyes that see
stars where there are none. Holy is the misfiring
nervous system, the sweat in December. Holy
is the walk, the pain, the hiccupped rhythm,
the breath, the stuck blood, the mind
whiteout, the salt, the shaking
voice, the bed, the wakeful night, the eight
blocks to the store, the fingers that grab the toilet paper
and drop the quarters. Holy is harmonized laughter,
the store clerk who bends to pick up the change.
Holy is every roused cell, the spitting
rain all eight blocks home, this body that
lives and lives and lives.

Heather Askeland is a Minneapolis and Brooklyn transplant currently residing in Seattle. She began writing poetry in 2010 and self-published her first chapbook, Born A Dolphin, in November 2011. She has guest blogged for Velvetpark: Dyke Culture in Bloom, and her poems have appeared in Breadcrumb Scabs and Word Riot. (letlovebe@gmail.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761