for Terry Tempest Williams
I didn’t love
That I had this
Or the appetite for drama
In my thinking
& in everything
I did. I wasn’t TV
Though I watched myself
As though brained or
Bludgeoned out of the fullness
Of my own reality. I felt
I had to respect what seduced me
Even if stupidly—even when it made
Me stupid—or meant I was—
Making of my mind a begging bowl
Laying myself waste for the devil
Making an innocent victim of the child within
So ferociously did I fear
Something adult, like sovereignty
Survival was a big-
Blanket. Not wet
With the antiseptics
Of the factory
It would take days
To air out, get it to resemble
The picture of something homey
I know what it’s like to pay
Money for such.
Image of things. To find
Them feeling hollow and smelling
Wrong. I know what it’s like.
The imitation of life.
I almost know what it means.
I disciplined my own form and the thinking
Within me. That may not be a religion
But it is grim theology.
The more muscle I had the better
I felt I could contain and conduct
The sorrow within. The smoother
Ran my blood and lymph.
My body dismayed me and I hated,
Adored it. Recurrent dreams
Of defective dolls kept coming back
To warn me. You are not a thing.
You are not the object against which forces
Tilt that you cannot control.
You are the entire subject of the world.
Tears rolled down a cheek of stone
My friend Terry writes about water
And land, mother and brother
Like a singer. I once despaired
To her that the only endangered
Species I had managed to speak
On behalf of up to that moment
Was myself. This seemed squalid
And narrow to me. Terry said it was real
Territory. I blinked melancholy
Into the seething night
Like a spotted owl in the eye
Of a security camera
Black and white bird without
Offspring or prey. My body
Is filled with plastic
I left my mother to die
To write these lines
You will parry that such is a false
Economy. But so
Are all the other ones we live by
Copyright © 2023 by Ariana Reines. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 21, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.