TENDER IS THE BODY

Alise Versella

 

Intimacy is that look you receive when you undress each other for the first time

Say wonderment

How could a woman look so beautiful in this lamplight?

My body is a gift I did not know I had been handed until you touched me

The way lips and the fingertips

And the breath warm like a radiator is to winter in a Brooklyn sublet

Touch me

Intimacy is the way touch can make the body’s crevices known

Deep sea between the sunken parts of my hips, the spaces that parallel each rib

Chart these depths

Say bathymetry

Navigate the intimate parts of my brain:

That which sinks its nails into the meat

Says I know what you are made of, I am made the same

I wonder who has ever really known me

We reach for each other in dark corners

I yearn to explore dark corners and tendon

How it connects and is capable of withstanding tension

I watch our legs like loose strings tie themselves together

In the mirrored black of the TV screen

That the body can lie prone while these organs tremor

Like how gravity prevents the earth from spinning outwards

Say tether

Say intimacy is not just sex

It is the building of a nest

The way a hummingbird may build hers between thorns in a thicket

At rest her heart reaches 250 beats per minute

Could you imagine a heart like that, how it could love

How it could be a place you might call home

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO SELVES

 

Consider the distance between two points

The first is a height

The second the fear of the climb

And the distance extends out like a telescope

The farther a star moves away

It’s in this way

Wings betray a blue jay

But consider the altitudes a body can reach

Like a body asleep projects the soul to an astral plane

How a dream

Given branches, builds a nest

A home

And does not second-guess

Feathers

Left to compost

Heavy may be the bags of bitter salt

That break open like the earth

Or the heart

Heavy-handed it spreads

Like chaos

The load trusted more than the ability to bear it

The lover, considered foolish

How she lets her body burst forth

With brilliant understanding

Of what it means to love someone as much as she loves herself

Stop trying to calculate what can’t be measured

Like ocean fathoms

And familiar phantoms

Their hauntings mistaken for friendship

Trust again in the night sky

Do not mourn the fading of its stars as they burn

Scorching the arid dirt

You are the sapling reaching, but you are not the binding root

And your tears will not set the ground aflame

They extinguish the thirst

Of so many choking doves

Darling, the mountain is never the obstacle

It has always been your fear of the stumble

Do you think all fledging birds

Consider

Distance

Before they learn

Flight

No

They simply fly

I WILL EDIT MANUSCRIPTS, BUT I WILL NOT EDIT MYSELF

 

I do not wish for snapshots

I want the whole damn panorama

I want the extended cut

The unedited scroll

You let roll forth from the typewriter

Like a carpet you did not have pulled out from under you

And I want the dust you swept under that carpet

When your mother wasn’t looking

When you were tired of the nagging

After you unpacked all the boxes of your body you kept closed up

Taped shut

Because you have been so afraid to unpack your baggage

And buy furniture with sturdy legs

Legs that will dent the carpet

Legs that might scratch that hardwood if you don’t first lay down some velvet to buffer it

I say refuse all buffers

Like bowling without bumpers

Like I do not care if sometimes my ball lies in the gutter

Scream guttural if you cracked the mirror and today didn’t like the imperfect reflection

Scream if it makes you feel better

because hawks don’t consider the eardrums of earthworms

they scream because they’re flying high and hunting

They are taking all that opportunity has laid before them

Because God gave them claws

So do not retract yours

We have deemed declawing inhumane

So what if you scratch a little?

If you sting a little?

If the blood reminds the spineless

You are still here?

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