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You know how you go through times in your life when you are having a hard time with your body? It’s hurting or something, or just making you angry or whatever. I’ve been kind of going through that lately. Um, not feeling so awesome, um, not feeling so well. And I’ve-i’ve been having days when I was feeling just really bad, um, what I decided to do was write a love poem in the days that start writing a love poem to my body. You know the Walt Whitman poem, “I Sing the Body Electric?” Okay, so th— I titled this “I Sing the Body Electric, Especially when My Power Is Out.” [Laughter] And um [takes a sip of water] thanks for being open to this, um, new experience.
This is my body.
I have weathervanes. They are especially sensitive to dust storms and hurricanes.
When I am nervous, my teeth chatter like a wheelbarrow collecting rain
I am rusty when I talk:
It’s the storm in me.
The doctor said some day I might not be able to walk
it’s in my blood like the iron
my mother is tough as nails,
she held herself together the day she could no longer hold my niece
"Our kneecaps are our prayer beds
everyone can walk further on their kneecaps than they can on their feet.”
This is my heartbeat
Like yours, it is a hatchet.
It can build a house or tear one down.
My mouth is a fire escape,
the words coming out don’t care that they are naked,
there is something burning in here.
When it burns,
I hold my own shell to my ear,
listen for the parade when I was seven.
The man who played the bagpipes wore a skirt
he was from Scotland;
I wanted to move there,
wanted my spine to be the spine of an unpublished book,
my faith the first and last page
the day my ribcage became monkeybars for a girl hanging on my every word
"you are not allowed to love her,"
tried to take me by the throat to teach me
I was not a boy,
I had to unlearn their prison-speak
refuse to make wishes on the star on the sheriff’s chest,
I started asking the sun about the Big Bang
the sun said, “it hurts to become.”
I carried that hurt on the tip of my tongue
and whisper “bless your heart” every chance I get
so my family tree can be sure I have not left
you do not have to leave to arrive, I am learning this slowly
So sometimes when I look in the mirror
my eyes look like the holes in the shoes of the shoe-shine man
my hands are busy on the wrong things.
Some days, I call my arms wings while my head is in the clouds
It will take me a few more years to learn flying
is not pushing away the ground
safety isn’t always safe
you can find one on every gun.
I am aiming to do better.
This is my body.
My exhaustion pipe will never pass inspection
and still my lungs know how to breathe like a burning map
every time I get lost in the curtain of her hair
you can find me by the window
following my past to a trail of blood in the snow
the night I opened my veins,
the doctor who stitched me up asked me if I did it for attention.
For the record:
If you have ever done anything for attention,
this poem is attention.
Title it with your name
it will— scour the city bridge every night you spend kicking at your shadow,
staring at the river,
it does not want to find your body doing anything but loving what it loves
love what you love
Say “this is my body,
it is no one’s but mine,
it is my nervous system
my wanting blood,
my half-tamed addictions,
my tongue tied-up like a ball of Christmas lights
if you put a star on the top of my tree, make sure it is a star that fell,
make sure it hit bottom like a tambourine
'cause all these words are stories for the staircase to the top of my lungs,
where I sing what hurts
and the echo comes back
"Bless your heart"
Bless your body.”
Bless your holy kneecaps, they are so smart
You are so full of rain,
there is so much growing,
hallelujah to your weathervanes,
hallelujah to the ache
hallelujah to your full, to the fall,
hallelujah to the grace,
and every body
and every cell
of us all.