Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


A Body’s Universe of Big Bangs

A body must remind itself
to keep alive, continually,
throughout the day.

Even at night while sleeping,
proteins, either messenger, builder,
or destroyer, keeps busy

transforming itself or other substances.
Scientists call these reactions
—to change their innate structure,
dictated by DNA—cellular frustration,

a cotton-cloud nomenclature for crusade,
combat, warfare, aid, unification,
scaffold, or sustain.

Even while the body sleeps, a jaw slackened
into an open dream, inside is the drama
of the body’s own substances meeting

one another, stealing elements,
being changed elementally,
altered by a new story

called chemical reaction.
A building and demolishment,
creating or undoing,

the body can find movement,
functioning organs, resists illness—
or doesn’t. Look inside every living being

and find this narrative of resistance,
the live feed of being resisted.
The infant clasping her fist

or the 98-year-old releasing
hers. This is how it should be,
we think, a long story carried out

to a soft conclusion. In reality,
little deaths hover and nibble,
little births opening mouths
and bodies the site of stories

and the tales given to us, and retold, retold,
never altered, and the ones forgotten,
changed, unremembered

until this place is made of only
ourselves. Our own small dictators,
peacemakers, architects, artists.

A derelict cottage,
a monumental church
struck in gold, an artist’s studio

layered with paints and cut paper,
knives and large canvas—

the site the only place
containing our best holy song:

I will live. I will live. I will keep living.

Credit


Copyright © 2020 by Leslie Contreras Schwartz. This poem originally appeared in Pleiades: Literature in Context, October 2020. Used with permission of the author.
 

Author


Leslie Contreras Schwartz

Leslie Contreras Schwartz was born in Houston, Texas. She served as Poet Laureate of Houston from 2019 to 2021 and received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship in 2021.

Date Published: 2020-10-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/bodys-universe-big-bangs