Allowing love came slow and seeping,
bark peeled back to the green bleed of phloem. The way
children pick scabs, little scientists, little masochists, their only impetus
desire and the way it burrs in the cheek. My body was an
education. Me, the student pulled from class to trace the same
familiar shapes. Don’t mistake my meaning, I was loved,
given all the tools to make myself worth worshipping. But want
hung heavy on my frame, warping. As when a brace contorts, or
illness crooks, some of us are born into forms we cannot hold.
Justice is a severed hand. Love makes its own laws, little
king, bright despot. When I said I was difficult to
love, I meant I was a stranger to myself, unarmed, unlimbed,
more seed pod than petal. Lately, all my metaphors grow green,
narrow shoots sprouting in my gut. The husk of me split
open was a dazzling, bitten thing. Lilac, tuberose, orchid,
pansy spilling out. And for years I named that garden barren
quarry and in naming, made it so. Spelled myself a white tower
rotten with roses, steeped in sleep. I’m not building toward a
savior here, some gallant hunk in steel. Think the coffin of the “I”
thrust open, the whale’s belly slit, night thick with grease and gasoline.
Under the arbor of that reckoning, I spilled unhinged into new shapes,
vicious and lovely in a form of my own making. I stake my heart
where it will grow, wet meat soaking the soil. A crop of my own, treasure trove,
Xs marking where my pulse wells up, sweet pulp. I am aching
yarrow-gummed toward a language that can hold me. They thought me stunted
zygote, little wound. Instead I spill like light through my lover’s hands.
Caroline Shea is the author of the chapbook Lambflesh (Kelsay Books, 2019) and an assistant poetry editor at Washington Square Review. Her work has appeared previously in Crab Fat Magazine, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Pinch, among other publications. In 2019, she received The Pinch Literary Award and she’s currently an MFA candidate in poetry at NYU.