My Body

      I. Moving

I have over six hundred muscles, each of them
slender and strong,
and when I move, I move like water.

Like a powerful music,
I am full of crescendos and rhythms:
I ripple, I whirl, I purr.
I flow from movement to movement,
I slip from rest to passing rest.

      II. Breathing

I love to unbutton my shirt
and watch my body fill with wind
like a promising sail. My fingers

slide easily over the rise of my chest,
the circular stalk of a nipple,
the hollow below my sternum,
the smooth umber of my stomach,

resting in the crater of my navel,
that record of my human birth.
Only years ago, this was the source

of my breathing: I began as a woman, curled
in the lake of the womb, feeding through
my belly's tendril.

Perhaps because of my body's
final, strange divisions
I can only love imperfectly,

not with a woman's palpable inner ache,
but only through abstractions
of touch and returning.

And yet, when I love, I love with this--
a beautiful animal wound around me,
a web of pores that falls and rises again,
that softens and hums to the touch.

      III. Waking

At evening, I stretch and purr into being:
my fingers knit together, rise
toward the ceiling, and slip apart,
and the blood tingles warmly in my arms.

Each night, as I become myself again,
and enter sotto voce into the darkening world,
I think of human love;
my arms revive and tremble for another,
a being alive in an animal not my own.

I am old enough now to know how dangerous
our bodies can be in their fitting together,
their mute longing;
more dangerous, perhaps, is love
in its relentless hunger.

But I know also this greatest of dangers,
lack of love. Each night I remember again
to love another's body

as I would love a garden:
cultivate, nurture, walk carefully.
Nourish no weeds, know stem, blossom,
pistil and stamen. And remember

that these fruits, exotic,
constantly ripening, rise from a webbing
of dark roots, circling secret stones,
tapping hidden soil.

This, too, is the source of my sleep,
and the root of my longing.
I think of this each night
as my arms reach upward, and my veins
rush again with the tingling sap,
the warm honey of rest.

      IV. Making

It may be said of me
that my love and my body amount to nothing
because I have fathered none,
given no living back to the living.
But my love is wilder and harder

than any human conception:
eighty-four muscles make my words,
not counting the moving of my lips,
the soundless flicker of my tongue,
and the fist of my heart, which beats
in everything I do.

Coming out of me, living is always moving,
and moving making; my fingers sing
this work into being, and I flare
with possibility. Each labored birth

is an act of becoming myself again,
and discovering my life's difficult music,
its turbulent counterpoint, its supple melody.
And in this way I live

with my body's frail infinitive, as together
we move in widening circles, slowly turning
further out of the world.

My limber animal, I love you best this way,
tendon and muscle, ligament and vein;
work with me now, be my harmony and strength.
We have only years before I leave you

for a larger music, and you become
a sad stranger, an elemental ruin,
a web of bones, drying in the dark.

Mark Stone

Copyright © Mark Stone
April 1998

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Copyright © 1998 A Small Garlic Press. All rights reserved.
Created 1997/9/16. Updated last on 2000/7/17.