Hallowing, or the Black Body Returns

(after Harmony Holiday)

reparations begin
    the body,   within
the striations of muscle
   to tendon, nerve to tissue

which is what you needed
    to know
the first time white hands
   touched you  
           as they said
   for wellness

& what you have needed to know since then

as the body
    peeled open
            calluses itself
into thickness  secretes fluids
shallow as stumbled waves
           mute now
the tidal turn
 under steelhand of sky        
& icy
skin bare   of itself

sprawling  also    

the body  
that hurts
   as it grows
which at age 11
   becomes a peacock colored skirt
           in your walk:   short    $12  
a deal  the hips           they see coming
before you do
   the cocooned hidden heart hanging
   in the bowl of the pelvis

shifting color   afraid   compelled

blind too

    the body
in its hunt        for restoration
the braille of flesh       sharp
&  collapsing   beneath your own fingers
   you cannot be the softness
you long for    click against yourself
ear turned inward       thirst crinkled tongue
  in dry excavation     seeking    

a mouth

 to hold the body
full & weighted
   as a holy word
            holy like wreckage
  holy like repair
holy like the eye traveling north
   in the sky

a mouth

   that awakens on the skin
every story the world
           has written on
the body
   dreamt and re-dreamt          

each lunar cycle

the body  with its sex
   a sea wall    wild
 with salt spray     sacrament to the
   pious  tongue

the body  as a sky of dark stars

the body  as the damp forest floor

the only beauty
     that has ever continued to hold
            above & beneath you


beginning in the body
   as seasons do
 opening slow as clockwork
one spring loosing at a time
   its own wind of want

the unhidden palm

   the hand that does not move
  without invitation    allowing
the wire of  ribs     to unfurl
reminds you
   what is it to float
 to open the bounty   balanced
like a jar of honey
   on the hipbones       honey
like what we offer the river
   for sweetness & favor         honey
like forgiveness    honey down the body
   like a prayer

down current

is the sea  & in it
the bodies of your grandmothers
   in the swaying grace of hymns
in their own dominion

at last

it is not the hands of others
   that will keep you tuned
 to the body’s artistry

your upturned unclasped palms
sometimes plea   sometimes offering  

only your hands
            to right it  
the body
 ridiculous & free
as a praise-song

 echoing out of  distance
humming itself next to the bones
   singing in

November 23, 2020

Lisbeth White

A 2016 Pushcart prize nominee, Lisbeth White is an alumna of VONA, Bread Loaf Environmental Conference, Tin House and Callaloo Creative Writing workshops. Her poetry has appeared in Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, The Rumpus, Kweli, Blue Mountain Review, Apogee, the anthology Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and elsewhere. A developmental editor and expressive arts therapist, she holds a dual BA in Creative Writing and Sociology as well as an MA in Counseling Psychology. She is currently working on an experimental hybrid nonfiction project about elemental medicine and archetypal mythology. You can find her musings on Instagram: @earthmaven.

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