Which Plumage

Does the body remember the hows and the whys? The accidents and the mindful intrusions? The heart shape traced in bloody scratches from a pin, just below the crook of the elbow; the crunch and pop of having created a second piercing in the left ear, circa 1988. The lancet, carelessly discarded, that poked through a plastic bag and scarred the right leg as it was carried out to the trash; the cracking of brow bone on brick sidewalk that cuts through the eyebrow, forty years later. The shoulder blades meeting plaster and wood as the body is slammed against a wall, for mouthing off (again). The headaches that come in all colors and flavors, all reasons and no reasons. The anxiety like dropping onto pavement and vibrating forever after. The burst ovary. The scarred edges of fingertips, conscripted into scrying: how much sugar? How long until the blood pressure, the peripheral and/or optical nerves, the liver, the heart — how long until these tire?

I tired long ago, the moment crystal clear. 1978, it must have been. And miles to go before I sleep, I thought, but in the voice of a not-quite-three-year-old. And miles to go before I sleep. Waking up and not being sure who or what or where I am. Which costume, which plumage. And this body is temporary, so why not shore it up with tangible, visible proof of what is real, this time around? To dust I shall return. But there is love. There is so much love. There are dreams that come true and wonders that never actually cease.

There are people who seem to constantly rise above it all, with their wisdom and their calm, and their ever-renewing sense of purpose and equity. Their wholeness. I am not one of them. I catch only glimpses of the important things, even as I inhabit them, understand them, taste their flavors in my mouth. Always, always: the sensation of inhabiting a shell.