Malka Older


You say that looking at me makes everything right in your universe?
That I help you believe in God?
We have something in common then; without my existence, I too
would have difficulty believing in God.
You want to know what it feels like to be inside of me?
I’ll tell you.
I am a speck of grit shuffling across the oyster-tongue of the world.
There is no comfortable position for my body to be in
when I want to fall asleep. I don’t know why I love who
I love. There is a great and arched cathedral in my chest
a vast space that doesn’t conform to the outside boundaries you see,
populated by occasional twinges and tweaks, a rising bubble somewhere
in my abdomen, a small spring uncoiling in my thorax, a throb.
This is how it is: sometimes my mind, lost within that space,
drops contact; sometimes my sex pleads
to be touched. (No, not now, although I can see
how you might be confused. It is a mystery
to me too, the when, the why.) Hunger is a vast
tumbler, a mill stone; fear a trembler, rattling
my guts. Sometimes I don’t know which eye
to look out of, I don’t know why, no matter how I squirm, I’m trapped
in this skin (you say it is like silk, but it is concrete,
it is bedrock on my bones), in this skull, my face
forever between me and the world: I am beamed in,
a television signal buzzing in an old box, lost.
But it’s easy to forget that; I can focus on the signals
I receive instead, although some prove to be pinpricks
from phantoms: I look down at my ankle or bicep
and find nothing, I think that person I crossed on the street
is smiling at me but no, or she smiled only because
she thought I was smiling at her (I know why you are smiling,
no need to explain). I pull on different strands
in the braid of my mind, and sometimes I find a chord.
You say I inspire you to poetry? You see,
something else we agree on.

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