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Poems by Kristen Nelson - The Feminist Wire

Poems by Kristen Nelson

A selected catalog of my altar from left to right

The body is an instrument which only gives off music when it is used as a body.

~Anaïs Nin

 

 

Bodies that sit here

Bodies that read

Bodies that stand and bend and hurt

 

 

In German the word body died, replaced by the word life.

Body is contrasted with the word soul.

 

 

 

Altar Far Left

 

30 or more cowry shells scattered: tiny woman parts mawing

 

body building

antibody

everybody

 

a snake shed: I am not supposed to tell you that my sister got it from the zoo

 

body politic

heavenly body

body image

body language

 

seven vials of my blood: an art project put on hold, because I was told that writing about a woman’s body is not relevant or innovative

 

nobody

rebody

somebody

over my dead body

 

A woman I did not know came to my house with her needles to pull the blood from my veins. She forgot her tourniquet so we tied my bandana around my arm. She slapped and said, “Are you ready?”

 

Writing about a woman’s body is not relevant or innovative

 

a petition for Hannah

a petition for Ian

a petition for TC

a petition for Kristi

a petition for me

 

some of us still have bodies that look like woman;

some of us have bodies that look less like woman;

some of us have bodies that do not look like woman at all

 

rebody

reembody

somebody

 

These petitions are sprinkled with lavender I picked in the south of France. I remember bending over in a skirt. Can you picture that? My body bent forward, my butt sticking up, harvesting lavender on the side of the road. The cars that drove by. Bodies in those cars yelling.

 

antibody

disembody

everybody

 

These petitions are wrapped in thread from Bhanu Kapil. I once heard a male student of hers talking about her “slammin’ body”

Writing about a woman’s body is not relevant or innovative.

 

heavenly body

body image

body language

 

 

 

In the Center of the Altar

 

a door knocker that is a woman’s hand cupped around a ball, it is heavy, this woman’s hand has no door to knock upon

 

5 poppies made from soda cans in South Africa: I bought them in a rainstorm, ducked into a metal hut in Kayaleisha, the artist beaconed me in, he handed me a bouquet of metal flowers, his eyes went up and down my body. He would not take the money, but his wife took the money and my body went back into the rain

 

antibody

disembody

everybody

 

Half of a shell I found at 114 feet down in the Sea of Cortez. It is coated with mother of pearl. The nacre coats a grain of sand, makes it beautiful. The mother that nourishes, the mother that creates. It is just so obvious, isn’t it? I carried all the air I needed on my back.

 

nobody

rebody

somebody

 

a piece of quartz I found in the forest when I was hiking with my lover

a shell I found in Mexico when I was laying around on towels with my lover

a shell I found on a beach in LA when I was walking with my lover

My lovers are not my lovers anymore because they do not touch my body

 

heavenly body

body image

body language

 

a condor feather: I am not supposed to tell you that my sister got it from the zoo

a golden eagle feather: I am not supposed to have this feather. This feather was for my lover, but she left. The eagle molted, the feather sits.

 

heavenly body

nobody

disembody

 

a dissected and reconstituted chiton skeleton: I cut it open. I sliced the flesh, I pulled its invertebrate body apart. I glued its almost bones back together discovering and destroying its body

 

 

 

Altar Far Right

 

a red virgin candle for Akilah

A card with Akilah’s words on them:

“Situational emphasis,/ shadows, evacuated narrator: /no closure, just this”

Akilah Oliver was a person with a body, her name means “all”

 

body bag

body language

body snatcher

over my dead body

 

I think about William Stafford’s poem “Traveling through the dark.” How at the end he thinks of us all and pushes that dead doe body with life still inside into the canyon. Akilah, you and us all.

 

Writing about a woman’s body is not relevant or innovative.

 

Akilah: you being gone makes no sense. I know: the natural order, but it makes less sense then a dead father, less sense then a dead lover.

 

heavenly body

body heat

nobody

disembody

 

 

Akilah, do you know that HR asks your question of everyone she meets? “What are the limits of the body?” Akilah, what are the limits of the body? The first time she asked me, I said: The body is limited by our own expectations. The last time she asked me, I said: the body is limited by who we allow to love us

 

 

 

What Hovers Above the Altar

 

Above my altar there is a disco ball that throws eyes of light on the wall.

There are peacock feathers: I am not supposed to tell you. I’m not.

Writing about a woman’s body is not relevant or innovative.

Next to my altar water trickles.

 

Bodies that sit here

Bodies that read

Bodies that stand and bend and hurt

 

 

 

These poems were originally written in response to, and published on, Lisa O’Neill’s Dictionary Project Blog. www.thedictionaryprojectblog.com

 

knelson_bySarahDalbyKristen E. Nelson is the author of Write, Dad (Unthinkable Creatures Press, 2012). She has recently published work in The VoltaDenver Quarterly Drunken Boat, Tarpaulin Sky Journal, Trickhouse, and Everyday Genius, among others. She is a founder and the Executive Director of Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona; a production editor for Tarpaulin Sky Press; and an editor for Trickhouse. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College and teaches writing.

8 Comments

  1. Julie

    April 17, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for sharing Kristen’s work. I was unfamiliar with it and glad to have made the acquaintance!

  2. Julie

    April 17, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for sharing Kristen’s work. I was unfamiliar with it and glad to have made the acquaintance!

  3. Julie

    April 17, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for sharing Kristen’s work. I was unfamiliar with it and glad to have made the acquaintance!

  4. Julie

    April 17, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for sharing Kristen’s work. I was unfamiliar with it and glad to have made the acquaintance!

  5. logan

    April 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Kristen Nelson thank you. underwater disco. secret zoo. lovers left lover found.

  6. logan

    April 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Kristen Nelson thank you. underwater disco. secret zoo. lovers left lover found.

  7. logan

    April 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Kristen Nelson thank you. underwater disco. secret zoo. lovers left lover found.

  8. logan

    April 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Kristen Nelson thank you. underwater disco. secret zoo. lovers left lover found.