ON RECLAMATION (2017 Poetry Prize Winner)

stand. naked or nude. both. before a mirror. take inventory.
these are my legs. they are good for running but
today we run from nothing. we
stand. naked and nude.
& they are good for that too.
these are my hips. in writing I have called them parentheses & voyagers & fertile earth
but today they are hips.           they are good like hips are.
this is my stomach. this is my Stomach. this is the middle thing. how we always forget
the middle things. how in love we are with the binaries of
start & end.
forgetting the sidewalk, the oxygen, the underscore—
this is my Stomach. I do not think I love it yet. so instead, I will worship with quiet hands. I will
collect breads & cheeses & atmosphere to display upon its altar & I will welcome fullness.
          I deserve to be full.
these are my hands.
too often they are just hands so today they are a church. today they are a spell book & a secret
& ten tiny lineages of drowned witches and spilled milk.
see how they are simultaneously little and big?
see how they are mostly bigger than you think they are?
these are my breasts. my shoulders. my collar bones. I like them.
I will trace them with hot vanilla candle wax by moonlight but also I’ll just like them.
like like them.
adorn them with nothing but air & marvel at how 8 year old self would marvel at the miracle of
her ripe and weathered body. how she would not not notice the veins & the puckering but how
she would see them.
just see them.
just see alive & alive & alive without afterthought.
this is my vulva.
I wanted to skip over it between the legs and the collarbones. wanted to treat it like another
middle thing.
as if I would not come back here, like now. like always. it hurts me—
standing. still. thinking of it. but
only because I recall its occupants before & instead of remembering my own architecture.
this is my vulva. it is not a flower or a pocketbook. not a refuge for weary incessant honeybees
or a
timeshare for loose change. it is my vulva. I love the way it makes me feel but that is not the
same as loving it.
take a hand mirror. position it between your hips. do not think about shaving. dare yourself to
see alive & alive & alive—
dare yourself to be a person. not a poem. do not try to add a punchline.
this is my body. she is good like a body. not like a narrative
of theft or abuse.
I owe no one my robberies. whether in a story or on a street corner either way
they are craving my flesh. demanding Detail. demanding Blood.
but this is my body. I take inventory. I show up. I do not “just” show up; I Show Up.
it is the bravest thing.
this is my body. I do not know how well I love me yet.
instead, I will feel how good it is & I will know that it is good, remembering another oft forgotten
middle thing—
the space between the healed and the healing.

Shay Alexi is a poet and performance artist whose work lives somewhere between warrior cries, literary fairy dust, and texts from your best friend. She tells stories in an effort to cultivate joy, dismantle patriarchy, promote radical empathy, and throw a really great party. Shay's work has been featured in video form by Button Poetry, Write About Now, HomeGrown Poetry, and The Open Floor. She is the winner of the 2017 Beecher’s Poetry Prize, RiverSedge Poetry competition, and a regular illustrator and contributor for the online journal Thread. Keep up with Shay and see more of her work at www.shayalexipoetry.com