Writing Yourself Out

Photo by Cherry Laithang via Unsplash

I wrote the first draft of this poem many years ago, when I was a new mother with a full-time teaching job who struggled to find time to write. At the time, my self-respect seemed to be directly correlated with my ability to produce perfectly finished poems, which rarely happened. Hence the constant state of frustration, tiredness, and befuddlement. Oh, and I should mention being saddled with an undiagnosed blood disorder that cast its own pall over pretty much everything I did. It took another decade to sort that one out. I think I may have sleepwalked through months at a time during those years, because there are whole stretches of my life that I cannot account for. But I’m grateful for this poem, which is like a little anchor I hold on to, a reminder of who I used to be, this younger endearing self I still carry inside me. I wish I could have told her, “It gets better, just wait. Keep writing.”

Writing Yourself Out

First you grab your leg
and hoist it on the table, the white
cast around it a hot, itchy heft.

Sit on the edge, pull up
your other leg, set it beside
the white cast.

Start scribbling on both,
cutting deep. You want to draw
blood, not raise welts.

Flesh and gypsum don’t matter.
When legs disappear, prop
yourself up on your hand.

Cut out the half-moons
of your nails for the dark nights
of this journey.

Fingers and palms are the best
to write on: phone numbers,
directions, arrows

to a lover’s heart, poems,
like now, when you’ve run
out of paper, tablecloth, napkins.

Wave good-bye
to your vanishing hand
with your writing one.

Scrawl around your navel
dark inkblots of initiation,
the unseen umbilicus

a fragile rope to a newborn
body. The pubis, squiggly
with words, is already gone.

You’re sitting in midair,
arm unhooked from its joint,
carving your back,

which by now should be only
a memory of a spine, shoulder
blades, coccyx, and buns.

Your hand hovers over
that face you rarely liked,
making sure to write off

its belligerent mouth,
squirting ink where the eyes
must have been.

After a short-term
blindness, you see again,
better, the outline

of your written-away husk
almost completed, minus
one hand, now high

in the air, performing feats
of contortion, a juggler
with words, a tightrope

walker, a tamer of hungry
dry spells, soon to join you and be
whole again.

First published in Thimble Literary Magazine, Vol. 3, no 1, Summer 2020

10 thoughts on “Writing Yourself Out

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  1. I think we sleepwalk through much of our lives (or maybe I just have a bad memory) (or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention)–but you have the details so vividly rendered here. All those missing pieces. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

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