nāwikan

my body remembers when it came apart

at the base of my sternum.

like when i met you when i was 20 –

belly up on my too small dorm bed.

you told me that you could take whatever you want.

 

when you left i felt my spine stiffen

as i washed my sheets and turned you

into a funny story.

laughter hiding what my spine knew.

laughter hiding why i cried the next time

i felt someone else’s hand on mine.

 

in my body i have hid secrets

in the empty space between my ribs.

 

i felt it in my back when i left at 13

leaning through the truck window, he said:

“you can never come back.”

vertebrae telling me that coming back

was never an option. spin stiffening at memories

that were the reason i had no place to come back too.

 

my spine is my greatest love story –

each bone coming to attention

to warn me, hold me, pick me back up.

i have held my softness between my teeth

and in my hands – and my resilience in

every intervertebral disc.

 

i have felt my spine soften when i cry. guard down at

a first kiss. back bone coming apart to show me that it knows

when i can safely lay bare. lamina reminding me that she keeps me stable.

that she remembers how to shake with laughter. that she knows when to toughen up.

 

nāwikan, this is a story of love for you and for the ways you

whisper through my body and remind me –

that it is in my best interest

to be

very

tender.

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