only with a body

a poem by Emily Banthin, ’20

Today I walked through a hollow house
accompanied by figures with tattoos
made of silver crosses
hung from the tiny hairs of a neck.
Their eyes were open so wide
I was pretty sure their irises were held in place
by something I do not possess,
because my eyes would have fallen from their sockets,
onto the floor like rocks that make dents in the carpet.

Their mouths and eyes said,
how beautiful,
as mine stared at the dark brown rows
shackling books to their backs,
and I watched heads bent over
and saw them pushed and dented
and blood running down the benches,
staining the books of music and drowning their choirs,
with these human-made rivers.

So on the way out I hold the door,
one foot in chapel
the other on stone
and scrape my palm on the latch,
so the skin makes rows
of engraved and peeling paper
tethered in place.

People like me don’t belong in churches
my bones too frail for blood-soaked music.

My hands too flimsy,
my skin like stained glass
enduring only rain
and the red inside white that pumps inside its panes.

My palm says I can leave this place
only with a body
for it now knows the color of an ivy covered house of bricks
and cells
and hands held together under chins
and eyes that were opened, now closed
and a fist branded pink
by what is not mine
and what might never leave me to dream
in solitude.


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