Seeing the Body

Not hers but mine. Not hers ever again. Ever

hers, my body pulled through, two

long windows open in the dark of birth,

the gold cord raised too in its wake. Awake,

the first morning. The first morning & all,

all the windows were closed inside. A blindness

scalding broken sight. The silence pulled through

my nostrils & veins, the ether of air failing

flesh. I get up from the shape I once was

& open the white blinds in my brother's house.

The light is specific. It is the 29th morning

of July. Last night they dragged me howling from her

body in the room. The room had a name,

number 3315, in the cardiac wing. In the room

I saw her winged shape leave, rise, forgive the

vessel that fled her. Now mine or ours, I

stare in the mirror while everyone sleeps

the aggrieved sleep of the living. Behind my eyes

a dead woman looks back at me with no trace

of recognition. I say 'Mother' & my own

feral mouth opens. Closes without any light.


Copyright © 2016 Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Used with permission of the author.

About this Poem

“Inarticulate parts of my self and my fears died in room 3315 so that the ‘her’ in the poem orbits my mother and also me—we both endlessly leave and arrive within ourselves and each other. Every day since the first moments of that grief I have existed in a brutal wonder and, too, a brutal gratitude for my mother and all the generous ways she continues to persist and visit me—sometimes through language but mostly through my body. How crowded and alive and necessary I feel, not only privately, but also in a greater context that celebrates and communicates a powerful inheritance, in relationship to black women’s bodies, of grief, truth, and love.”
—Rachel Eliza Griffiths