“Hip and Heart (remembering grammar lessons)” by Kiernan Norman

It’s a sticky summer and I do laundry every other night-
I can’t keep clean.

Wednesday morning, early August, while leaning (not cleaning)
across the gritty counter where I earn a paycheck, I
feel the last deep pull of my lungs before they surrender to rust.
A calm vision catches in the coursing current of my blood
and floats, untethered, through virgin channels of vein.
In the way some women sense pregnancy before their body gives
them any clues, I know I am in decay.

It’s been so easy to confuse the materialization
of hips; stretching and grazing after a long hibernation,
with the steel-toe heaviness of my heart.

Both have me tripping over myself,
shivering and admiring the hem of my skirt
as it dances in time with the circles
I keep turning in; giggling alone
and taking stuttering steps down the cereal aisle
for the third time this week.

Hip and heart are equally quick to bruise
and when a laugh too high, too loud,
too insincere rattles my lips;
a staggered, cold gale stings
both my gnarled pelvis
and the grimy bit of light
that sits behind my sternum.

Every piece of me blushes and
pinky promises it’s neighbor it
will do better. Will be quieter. Will keep
to a light simmer and not erupt boiling and steamy.

The bones cross their heart and hope to die.
The tendons nod with big eyes and try not to blink
as the message travels through my anatomy like a panicky
game of telephone. The head bone’s connected to
the back bone, (we’ve got this) the back bone’s connected to
the hip bone (we just need to focus) the hip bone’s
connected to the thigh bone (we’re done speaking today.)
Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.

It’s a sticky summer and studying my hands
has become a national past-time. No matter how much
sweat has pooled in the dip of my clavicles or dampened
the swatch of hair below my ponytail, my palms keep
cold. Fingers shake consistently. Rings fit well, then pinch
too tight then slide off too loose in the lifetime of one afternoon.
I’m wasting a lot of time willing myself to stabilize.

It’s a sticky summer and the hip and heart within me-
the ones I never asked to be responsible for,
are expanding to fill the dunes of ice I hid under all winter,
which have begun to melt. My brain pulses loud and hot,
untamed by my skull and I have to sit down for a minute.

Following the quick, thin stream of my thawing winter with tired eyes
I realize how clean it is. Clear but comfortingly foggy like sea glass. Like the
warming dashboard of a below zero drive through the night.
It’s decay but it’s also ripening.

If leaves didn’t crumple and fall to the ground
how would we know when to put our sweaters on?
Eventually the stream will dry up and become something of
an entirely different definition. And so will I.

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