I Dare

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be still be brave be calm be strong

i carve my new years’ resolutions into my legs like grocery lists of items i can never buy, write my invocations for smallness, for thinness, for quiet in cramped cursive on battered yellow post-its i stick to the bathroom scale

i scribble ‘be still’ on the back of my hand in blue ink and watch as it sinks in, little rivulets in the dry cracks reaching outward like roots

my body seizes up with panic and i end up scratching my hand red raw, trying to tear the words out of my skin and put them in my heart

a thousand repetitions until the words are gone in the whisper-scrape of my nails against the bones and there’s nothing of me left either

it takes a long while for something else to settle in my brain, the half-forgotten words of a poem digging away industriously at the loamy soil

o look, look in the mirror

o look in your distress;

life remains a blessing

although you cannot bless

so i look, look in the mirror

i look in my distress

and see the taped up image

that tells me i should bless

there are a thousand crumpled notebook pages laid out side by side across my clean, soft sheets

they tell me what i should do, what i should be, what i should take and what i should leave, but only one says life’s a blessing even when i cannot bless

so i pick up a new sheet of paper, draw a map from here to there, ear to ear to error, and write a list not of what i should be, but of what i am

i remember the moments when my eyes have drifted closed of their own accord, my face drenched in light and my bare toes digging into the dirt and i know that i am still.

i think clenched fists and sword in my hand and i spit blood from my copper red mouth and i know that i am brave.

my voice breaks apart the stars and my heart keeps rhythm when i can’t stop the shaking of my hands and i know that i am calm.

my hands hold the oceans as i lift my cupped palms to wash my dirty face. i carry the world on my back, not like atlas, reluctant and weary and in punishment, but like the turtle, slow and steady and all the way down and i know that i am strong.

 

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