© 2013 by Jenifer L. Hammond

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"What My Body Carries"

All that is horrible in the world lives in my teeth. They are heavy and achey and foreign, full of blackness. They crumble and crack, one by one, large chunks disappear to god knows where as I clench and grind and chew. I carry this pain in my mouth. I dream of hundreds of crumbled teeth. I use my fingers to sweep, like you might for a choking child, searching out every crevice, hidden nook or pocket but I cannot clear them, I am rendered unable to speak for the debris. 

All my fear lives in my right scapula. Pinching and pulling, knotted muscles spasm with personal conflict. My shoulder bending under the weight, my spine twisting, my breath squashed, my body contorted like the painting of a tormented man. The pain traveling down my bicep, through my elbow and into my thumb.

All my thoughts are tangled in my hair. I move through the room and my curly halo collects them from the air, soft, furry tentacles reaching out, gathering them up so I can decide which ones I want to let in. 

All my love sits just below my navel, like a pit, heavy and dark, the conception of everything, waiting to be delved into, cradled by my pelvis, rocked by my legs, cushioned by my soft belly. A globe of obsidian. A portal to another place. Both everything and nothing at all.

All my grace is in my feet. The long thin bones flex and grip and climb nimbly propelling me to new places. My heels padded, forgiving the weight of the whole body above as I strike the earth with every step. Toenails hard and strong, cutting holes through the shoes I’ve always loathed to wear. The restriction of shoestrings unbearable. 

All my joy lives in my hands. Running my open palm across another’s body, caressing an old dry animal bone, the cracks in my fingers covered with paint and metal leafing, soil filling in the space underneath each fingernail after digging in the garden, palms raised to the sky inviting those things that have yet to be. 

All the sounds live in my throat, Om Shanti, Om Namah Shivaya, Hallelujah, Alḥamdulillāh, Towdah, Grandmother Moon, asking to receive all that there is and all that ever was. 

All the abundance fills my eyes, they are weighted by the deluge, raining down over my cheekbones and dripping off my chin like peach juice. Lucious and greedy, consuming the lavish blessings surrounding me. 

There is space yet beneath my breastplate, in between the bones of my knees, inside my ear. Space to carry that which is to come.

“The Wind”

 

The wind is whipping through the trees

I can hear it begin several canyons away

thundering through the lodgepole pine 

and stands of aspen

traveling by the red rocks, over the rivers and creeks

like a run-away train on an eastward track.

Everything is overwhelmed by the gale.

 

It feels like aggression but I cannot tell if

it is toward me or blowing through and away from me.

A violent clearing.

 

I try to hold tight, withstand the storm

the snow stinging my face, my hair matted and wet

head ducked, breathing evenly and slowly

allowing for both the breath and the wind

as I slowly and deliberately make my way

to shelter.

 

What will be gone when this is over?

What will remain?

 

 

“The Last Day”

 

Tell them I loved this place,

the silver river running by

and the fish jumping

and the sweet dogs next-door rolling, 

glee in the grass.  

 

I hid glass beads in the reeds, 

and left behind painted slate for stepping stones, 

little delights to be discovered by the next.

 

I stand on the last night, 

my feet on the slick rock,

in the ferny underwater forest,

minnows nibbling my toes, 

darting around their mossy world.

The water is low,

slender stemmed white flowers poke out of the water, 

like mini alpine lotus.

The sun is setting,

the geese across the way

nesting on the sandbar, 

the heron flying overhead, 

prehistorically large like a pterodactyl, 

my river otter fishing, 

and I know 

they will love this place too.

"Not For You 

**A story of universal rejection.
(and trite platitudes)"

**If you try something and you fail,
it is not for you.

They did not call you for that interview,
that job is not for you.  
Your account is overdrawn,
money is not for you.
You are sick and broken,
healthcare is not for you.
You lost your house,
a home is not for you.
That relationship ended,
love is not for you.
You have failed, 
success is not for you.
You are drowning,
happiness is not for you.
People are weary of you,
connection is not for you.
Life isn’t working,
living is not for you.

(Suffering is a choice. Do what you love and the rest will follow. When a door closes, a window opens. Tough times don’t last; tough people do. Diamonds are made under pressure. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success. Let go. This too shall pass.)

“Home”

 

I stand, watering the garden

flowers bow their heads under the blessing,

the dogs are rolling in the grass

the fish are jumping

the river running low and warm

ferny forests and little white flowers on its edge

cottonwood leaves shimmering overhead

these are the days I live for

the sweet light of dusk, 

the last golden glow skipping across the water

children laughing in the distance

the heron stands alone on a rock.

"Birth"

quietly she rocks

moans

d o w n

she slowly chants

drawing out her o’s

swaying

willing the child

to make his slow descent

 

crying

sleeping

rocking

in and out of the water

 

open

she chants

 

he is so very near

and so very far

 

night passes

morning too

he has not yet arrived

 

she is wild with pain

eyes and mouth open

hair matted and curled

wet against her forehead

 

inches might as well be miles

this is the impossible

he is visible

but hanging on inside of her

 

working

pushing

his wet head emerges with a splash

we see his eyes squished shut

tiny lips pursed

purple and swollen

 

her eyes fly open in surprise

the babe is laid on her thigh

she is full of wonder

pain is abandoned

he is born

"Two Variations of Love"

 

My eleven year old child, 

climbs up and into my soft sweet bed, 

the length of her body pressed against mine.  

How do her feet reach my toes, 

her head on my shoulder?

She stays, loving and loving me, 

until I cry.

 

He, body lean and long

soft curls smattered across all the good places

hip bone under my palm,

stokes my cheek

caresses my face,

our breath is easy.

He gazes into my eyes.

Not a word is spoken,

but everything is known.

I relax.

 

 

"Candy Dish"

 

We call them candy dishes

She says,

the cyclists,

with their high rib cages, 

hollow bellies,

flanked by sticking up hip bones.

I put my hand in the candy dish again

and grin like a monkey.

I’ve always loved candy.

“Fucking Is The Only Prayer”

 

I think of the day when you are dead and gone

and I can have your bones.

I will cradle the bone of your hip in the palm of my hand

and remember it’s sharpness against my thigh

when we were young and beautiful and needed each other

and spent our days in and out of the bed

in and out of each other

working and then fucking 

and it was all the same thing.; 

fucking to flow, 

fucking to feel alive,

fucking to stave off that fear 

that creeps in at the edges.

 

It was worship;

seeking and desiring,

joyful and thankful,

fucking is the only prayer

thank you, oh thank you, thank you

are the words on my lips

(and I love you, but those words I keep inside)

 

You say I saved your life.  

but you don’t tell me how.

You talk of your own death as if at any moment 

you will just divorce yourself from this world

be gone from mine

I can only dream of having your bones when it is done.

It’s the lie I tell myself (among many lies)

I will hold that bone and feel it’s weight and texture 

and all that was holy about you will rest in the palm of my hand

the same prayer still on my lips

thank you, oh thank you, thank you.

"Hot Springs"

Dreamin’

lost in your kisses

stars flying overhead

our bodies soaking and warm

steam floating off the crowns of our heads

the mystery beneath us, best left unseen by light of day

my hand wandering through the hair on your chest 

all I want is to breathe your breath

your foot running up my calf

my tongue finds your lip

there is nothing else

my head spinning

I inhale you

"Hamster Wheel"

The hamster cage is disgusting.  It houses the most delightful creature, this blonde, soft, inquisitive little rodent with translucent ears, and I am surprised by my love for her.  Hamalicious.  My daughter says I am fur deprived.  I tuck her temporarily into my jacket where she curls up underneath my breast, her favorite napping spot.  I take apart the plastic pieces, throw away the trampled and musky bedding, scrub out those places that are covered in hamster yuck.  

 

Re-assembling the habitat a hard plastic piece breaks off.  I’m due to leave the house momentarily and now I’m faced with a hole, potential hammy escape.  I scramble around, sweet fur ball now in hand, to find the epoxy needed to restore the piece.  I read, “Hold in place for 20 minutes to set.”  “Shit.  Who has time for this god damn process?”  I’m shouting directions to my children, “Please put on your shoes! Please pack your backpacks! Someone bring me the hair dryer! ” Hamster in one hand, other holding the plastic piece, hair dryer tucked under my chin, my husband walks into the kitchen.  He shouts at the kids, “Get in the car!”  I snap at him, “I need a minute”, he scolds me for my terrible timing.  I put the hamster in the cage, she can’t sneak out while I’m holding this piece waiting for it to dry.  “Come on!  We have to go!” he roars.  “You never fucking help me!” I yell back.  Tipped over the edge, he corners me, is in my space, he’s angry, “Get away from me”, I almost growl, eyes narrowed, hateful.  Explosively, his fist comes down on the cage, plastic pieces flying everywhere. I am screaming.  I see my daughter over his shoulder, face stricken, my son is in the hall wailing.  The hamster scurries across the stove-top and I gather her up.  Still inflamed he yells again for the kids to get in the car.  I rush over to the front stair case and grab my daughter and am saying, “No, no, no, stop it, stop.  Come in the living room.  Stop”.  Everyone is quiet.  The children, crying, sit on the floor.  I am cradling the hamster and pass her off to her rightful Mama.  “It’s okay.  It’s okay.  Mommy and Daddy just had a fight and we are okay.”  My husband, his face full of distress, whispers, “I didn’t know she was in the cage.”  I speak deliberately, quiet, low and slow, “We had a fight, just like you two fight, you get angry and make stupid choices.  We are ok.”  We decide together to go to school late.  To make a temporary habitat for the furry girl out of boxes, filling it with bedding, food, a wheel.  Make sure she can breathe but not get out.  Kids are calmer.  My spouse is looking at me with great sadness.  We take the kids to school together.  I cry silently the whole way there, because we are not ok.