Your Heart is not a Hospital
Your body is not a first aid kit
for broken people
and damaged souls
and hearts that are too tired
to fix themselves.
Your heart is not a hospital
and spend all of its life blood
on other people’s problems
You have been created
from the blood
of incalculable planets
and immense supernovas
and infinite constellations.
And they didn’t spend years
painting your soul
into masterpiece like existence
for you to waste it on someone
who doesn’t appreciate you.
If you had asked me, thirteen, what I wanted
to be one day, I wouldn’t have said it.
I wanted, for a long time, to be anything
but myself, knew that a soon-to-be
woman was the second worst thing
in the world after a woman, full
stop, and I was heading there fast.
I could see it, my breasts rudely
nudging into view, their snug caps
like the knit caps of infants, rosy-
colored as a tongue. And how
terrifying, the thought of a mouth there,
rooting, and what could be drawn
from me that I didn’t need—what else
skulked in me unseen, stirring in secret
vats with milk yet untapped, and blood,
the strange, new wellspring? I was just beginning
to understand the possibilities, my body’s
elusive, independent workings, machineries
chugging away in dark chambers
not just left to but simply
their own devices, unknowable and sovereign.
What I wanted, always, to be:
in control. And I knew this was
impossible, just as I knew, even then, that
to be a mother was to be the only
permissible form of a woman, the begrudging
exception to the rule of our worth-
So if you asked me again,
twenty-three, I’d tell you the worst thing
you could be is not a woman but
barren, the industry shut down and the parts
missing, malformed. And I’d tell you the shame of it:
the feminine failure, its ache
a reminder—at the center the tumor
ballooning, like hope.
–N. Scott Momaday
One hears the river run,
An occasional rise of wind.
Nothing of the setting sun
Illuminates the wounded mind.
A coalescence of the dead
Will simulate a marching band
And stitch the way with lurid thread
And echo silence out of hand.
In faith one is compelled to be
Complicit in apostasy.
You wear your body as if without
illusions. You speak of former lovers with some
contempt for their interest in sex.
Wisdom of the spirit, you
imply, lies in condescension and poise.
… Fucking, I can feel
the valve opening, the flood is too much.
Or too little. I am
insatiable, famished by repetition.
Now all you see is that I am luggage
that smiles as it is moved from here
to there. We could have had ecstasies.
In your stray moments, as now in
mine, may what was not
rise like grief before you.
What was said at the bus stop
lately has been a long time
says the girl from Pakistan, Lahore to be specific
on the bus stop when the white man
asks her next where she’s from & then
says oh, you from Lahore?
it’s pretty bad over there.
lately has been a long time
she says & we look at each other & the look says
yes, i too wish this dude would stop
asking us about where we from
but on the other side of our side eyes
is maybe a hand where hands do no good
a look to say, yes, i know lately has been
a long time for your people too
& i’m sorry the world is so good at making
us feel like we have to fight for space
to fight for our lives
“solidarity” is a word, a lot of people say it
i’m not sure what it means in the flesh
i know i love & have cried for my friends
their browns a different brown than mine
that i have danced their dances when taught
& tasted how their mothers use rice
different than mine. i know sometimes
i can’t see beyond my own pain, past black
& white, how bullets love any flesh.
i know it’s foolish to compare.
what advice do the drowned have for the burned?
what gossip is there between the hung & the buried?
& i want to reach across our great distance
that is sometimes an ocean & sometimes centimeters
& say, look. your people, my people, all that has happened
to us & still make love under rusted moons, still pull
children from the mothers & name them,
still teach them to dance, & your pain is not mine
& is no less & is mine & i pray to my god that your god
blesses you with mercy, & i have tasted your food & understand
how it is a good home, & i don’t know your language
but i understand your songs, & i cried when they came
for your uncles & when you buried your niece
& i wanted the world to burn in the child’s brief memory
& still, still, still, still, still, still, still, still, still
& i have stood by you in the soft shawl of morning
waiting & breathing & waiting