The Simple Fact of Waking
In dark I start with the muscle stretched beneath your jaw. Should I be technical? The sternomastoid gently reaching down to the pit of your neck. It is a new beginning. Here is the bone we know as the elegance of form. God’s grace hanging the body from a single line, your structure breaking forth. With one touch I can pull apart linea alba, breaking the skin open between suprasternal notch and groin. I am trying to see the bones from underneath, looking for the moment when they emerge from flesh to touch the skin themselves. I will always use the clavicle as my referent, pulling it out with the tips of my fingers when I find the corner of your frame. Then will your body collapse? The skin folding away without its binding, muscle exposing itself, disengaged, ready to be lifted out. Your body becomes the simple fact of form, each bone recognized for what it holds in. I know the ribcage is the sonnet of the soul, the coda folded between hipbones. Here dawn is the moment of the limbs. I cannot see the ulna beneath your flesh, only its quiet intransigence just before the turn of your wrist.
What She Never Owned
for my favorite (sic)
for the heat
for the right wind
for yellowed leaves
for a lost breath
for my heart
to be burnt
to measure this
wrapped in orange
in folded paper
wrapped in static
for the shifted sand
for fear of snow
to shed tenderness
to wait for you
Aviva Englander Cristy’s chapbook The Interior Structure will be published by dancing girl press in winter 2013. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in BlazeVox, The Hollins Critic, So To Speak, The Spoon River Poetry Review, decomP Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and others.
Q: What can you tell us about these poems?
A: These two poems are both from my manuscript What She Never Owned. Even though these poems seem to take decidedly different formal approaches, they are, for me, very much part of the same project. “What She Never Owned,” the title poem for this manuscript, touches on the primary themes of the book and brings them together by allowing them all to simultaneously inhabit the body in the poem. “The Simple Fact of Waking” is one of the oldest poems I am including in the project. At the time, I was thinking a lot about how poetry can create a space for both figurative and literal language to co-exist. I had been writing a lot of very fragmented and abstract work, and was wanting to clear my mind and move in another direction. I joking refer to some of these poems as my “literal consumption of the beloved” poems.
Q: Anatomy plays a big role in “Waking.” Is there any other poem or poems involving the nomenclature of the body that you reference or would like to discuss?
A: When I first began this project, I was actually reading anatomy books, and not as much poetry about the body. I read sections of Grey’s Anatomy, as well as William Harvey’s essays and letters. Harvey was an anatomist and professor in the early 17th Century. What struck me, more than thinking about how poetry and poets talk about the body, was how poetic Harvey and other anatomists are in their own technical (supposedly) writing. I say supposedly because some of this writing felt much more like prose poetry than a textbook or anatomical treatise. In general, I am very interested in how poets use language from other sources, whether it is directly found text or simply lexicon, nomenclature, rhetoric, methods of thinking, meaning making, and logic. All of our language always, necessarily, comes from and is used by other people and in other settings. How can we use all of those other worlds of meaning to create poems that can live multiple spaces?
Q: What compass direction do you face when you write, and what do you see?
A: What a great question! Unfortunately, I don’t have a set answer. If I am inside, I usually sit facing East, looking at a wall hanging/sculpture of fall leaves, a black and white print of a New England coastal town, a life-sized skeleton mask from Oaxaca, Mexico, and the bookshelf where I keep all of my art books, first editions, antique books, etc. If I am outside, I face the sun or water, if there is water to be seen. Usually, I am jumping up and down and pacing and running into the other room to grab a book, so it is hard to say that I am facing any one way in particular.
Q: What is the color of grace?
A: Somewhere between simplicity and kindness, though I think on a gray-scale it would fall a bit closer to simplicity.