Estranger: A Ruptured Text (excerpt)

By Michelle Naka Pierce

We do not understand / the origin of movement

The terrain lined with failures / the ephemeral cloud whose body dissipates / inside this mass / of water / I am visible / for only a moment / here / wandering the atmosphere / a voice rising

When we say body as pronoun / we mean in place of

The sight of a code blue shocks the nervous system / looking through the ICU glass / pleading to a god you do not believe in / a hurried sound escapes the throat / tightening in the stomach / closing of the vocal cords / the body collapses in on itself

Hovering / looking down on the scene / like a hawk over the field outside the window / while one heart is temporarily restored / another slowly ruptures

The red that seeps in / burning eyes / the abstract language on the organism as it deteriorates / this day / as if lexicons were eradicated some time between then and now / words bearing visible witness / this thing / the palimpsest in snow / a shadow of intention

A DNR issued / because this will happen again / and soon / one by one / we approach his bed / this is the day of lasts / last touch / last I love you / last apology / last goodbye / the clock degrades / it’s morning / soon it will be afternoon

Memory / a past life / a sense of self / the body / the trace / an obliteration inside mind

Phones aren’t allowed / but you call anyway / held to his ear / sibling a state away / driving toward the border / one speaks / one lies still and listens / only moments pass / as if he were waiting for his last child to appear / even as a disembodied voice over airwaves / last breath

These are the words you whisper / let go / it’s okay / I will care for mama / assurance in the value of this life / the texture of the air still swift around you

“as the descent of a divine pneuma into the body”—Giorgio Agamben

Mama sees the dead / not once / not twice / but several times / the girl dancing / in the middle of the night / her silhouette illuminated by transom moon

One year after his passing / ashes returned to his birthplace / to converge heart and home / the ground so hard / the shovel won’t penetrate / a resistance you still don’t understand / a tree grows in the SE corner of the plot / because life transforms life / entropy of time / in the shallow hole / the cloudy glass vessel is placed / ashes from urn / into this vintage spice jar

Inside the interstice of this / meaning recovers its essence / scattered flowers diluted from the fragile pink / the cold of the body circulates through / what matters here is the fragment / it is you who has written / who can correct a single movement / calling with an abrupt gesture / a vertical hand propels the rain / without looking / you hear the hive / the image of a disillusioned god

Water of the last moment / head facing north / one year / shōtsuki meinichi / gliding moon / budding day

Peripatetic axiom / “Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses”—Thomas Aquinas

Somatic axiom / nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the body / imagine spark as particle or atom / essentially movement / a fragment that breaks free / into its own key / tempo / suture

Catch your breath / this is what the mind thinks as the body recovers / this is what the body feels after bouts of insomnia

Seven days following his death / he appears in dreams / in a navy blue suit / sitting under a thick cottonwood / some memories lie dormant / until a portal emerges / where tender meets meridian or grief

The first anniversary is a threshold / an aperture through which light passes / it’s night / the family / at the reunion / brothers sing the song you wrote for him / and mama sees him standing in the distance / the postmemory is vivid / her telling and retelling until the imprint is embedded as your own

Sometimes when one writes / only words happen / yet / the body / inside this fever / saves us

Born in Japan and based in Boulder, Colorado, Michelle Naka Pierce is the author of nine titles, including TRI/VIA co-authored with Veronica Corpuz; Beloved Integer; She, A Blueprint with art by Sue Hammond West; and Continuous Frieze Border Red, awarded Fordham’s Poets Out Loud Editor’s Prize.

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