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The first is a new series — part of a col­lec­tion of raw, straight-from-the-shoulder poems ten­ta­tively enti­tled “His Life Dithyra­mbic” — as I revisit my life up to this point, its pains, traumas, plea­sures, and good fortunes.

The attending illus­tra­tion is a self-por­trait done roughly a year ago, orig­i­nally to the prompt “Unbreak­able,” and seemed com­ple­men­tary to the verse’s cen­tral con­ceit, since it details actual inci­sions, wounds, punc­tures, and blunt traumas that I’ve expe­ri­enced at the mercy of nature, myself, and other people.

This piece is unusual for me for lacking a reg­i­mented meter and end rhyme scheme, while fea­turing more internal rhymes, con­so­nance, and count­less enjambments.

List­less I lie, an under­whelming lump,
Racked as they pump, turn, and tighten,
Stretch me firm, and taut, and tender,
Wan limbed, blood pooling to the center.
Across this bed­stead of their piercing love,
My lithe and naked, hair­less torso hung,
So young, between the posts of expectation
And inher­i­tance. I look with cow­ardice upon
Their instru­ment array: the tray of blades,
the bowl, the bone-saw, the vessel for my soul.

And though I wish to weep, I will not weep,
I will not let a tear to stream, purple my cheek,
I will not let their love be sat­is­fied by this
One last part of me: They cannot have my grief!
They can demar­cate my limbs with dotted lines,
And trace the shape of me that they would nip,
And tuck, and sever off, and fold; like origami
Boxes, into which the rest they mold to fit.
For them a pretty, emp­tied cavity to fill; or rag
To sop up all the unpent liquid love they spill.

I hold their eyes in mine, unflinching stare,
Pre­tend that I am not about to die,
Unanes­thetized, and too aware of every pore, each
Strand exposed beneath an incan­des­cent contumely.
The lancet slits into my soft, pubes­cing flesh
And teases out each fil­a­ment from fiber,
And nerve from hope and lig­a­ment from bone.
Hope only that they leave some little part uncut.
But no, strip down and flay the altar of its skin,
And grave from its bold unity the image of their god,

A god who only lives ensnared in mirrors.
I faint, come to. (I’ve flinched.) Recoiling, scream
With blood-slicked body reeling in the air. I rock
The pil­lars and the chains; moan and curse their
Tor­tured hearts and tor­turing hands. But am too weak
To long resist the blows that beat me back and seize
Me fast, bound into place to soothe my throes.
These sur­geons for my sin, they run their palms across
My breast, down my cheek, through my hair, and
Whisper, “Do not despair, for we know best how best to care.”

These my atten­dants take their stock. I recompose
Myself and grit my heart. They touch my brokenness
And knead my guts, probe me for masses; some cystic
Tangle or worse, some­thing more con­gen­ital, perverse.
They pinch, mas­sage, and rearrange my loins.
I wince at forceful fin­gers plucking sinews,
rap­ping bones, the shame of all of me to them like clay.
Naught there amiss to find, undaunted ply their tool
Of last resort: sway with seen and sawn serrations;
Rip adi­pose, stri­ated thews, chew finally to osseous arma­ture and through.

’Til onward past this gore of love they find
What their small hearts have sought, so earnest:
A lover who’ll fit well within four posts.
Who limb­less, impo­tent com­pels their unctions:
“Anoint my emp­tied sockets, tongue­less mouth,
Drip oil from ampu­tated arms, legs, ears, and snout;
And, finally, that place between the hips
That was, too dis­joint­edly con­cu­pis­cent, shorn free,
In chrism toss to save my soul from me
And to, at last, be lov­able to Thee.”