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.

Read next: Poetry by Will Alexander

Founded in 2020, Three Fold is an independent quarterly based in Detroit that presents exploratory points of view on arts, culture, and society in addition to original works in various media, including visual art, literature, film and the performing arts. We solicit and commission contributions from artists, writers, and activists around the world. Three Fold is a publication of Trinosophes Projects, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Three Fold recognizes, supports, and advocates for the sovereignty of Michigan's twelve federally-recognized Indian nations, for historic Indigenous communities in Michigan, for Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. We operate on occupied territories called Waawiiyaataanong, named by the Anishinaabeg and including the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), and Bodewatomi (Potawatomi) peoples. We hold to commit to Indigenous communities in Waawiiyaataanong, their elders, both past and present, and future generations.