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Before We Sparked Her Start,

a two-cell speck,
         before she burrowed so mightily
she made me bleed,
I dreamt she already filled me
      like a wild bead of light
inflaming an otherwise black room,
the curtains drawn, the secret mine. How many?
      the hostess asked,
and I held up two fingers—a walking we.
I seeped to the surface
      of waking like a lazy swimmer
and was single again,
my body a foot away from his,
      or leg on leg
but still a separate story.
I am a house,
      the women say, and now
I know they don’t just mean their size
but others live here. I am shelter.
      Her limbs wave yes
against the limits of my new inches.
Dear dream waitress, I need to tell
      someone who will offer pie after:
Now I dream my stomach is flat again.
Now I dream I eat
      the word autonomy whole
and hope it splits me
in two: the life of being
      needed and the life
of that need undone.

Heather Kirn Lanier is the author of Teaching in the Terrordome: Two Years in West Baltimore with Teach For America (U of Missouri), and The Story You Tell Yourself (Kent State), winner of the 2010 Wick Poetry Open Chapbook Competition. She is a recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and a Rona Jaffe - Bread Loaf Scholarship. Her nonfiction and poetry have appeared in Salon, The Sun, Fourth Genre, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. She teaches at Southern Vermont College.