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The Body Itself the Narrator of the Message

In the days of my healing, they sent a mystic,
carrying the scent of incense on his skin.

His tunic whispered well-washed spells; his hands
the beaks of two fast birds that weaned me

from the machines one needle at a time, ungentle
with the work. Red skin flared beneath his fingers

as he swiped at the adhesive. He lacked conviction,
offered little consolation beyond a raised brow.

Yet, I have begun to see the magic of his work.
When the night nurse slips under the charm

of the late hour, I sneak past her white nest
to enter the closest whitecoat’s den. In the dim,

I touch his photographs, his bronze and silver
paperweights, the luxury of his leather chair. I leave

my offerings, a fingerprint placed over his name,
threads from the loose noose of my collar, a cuticle

torn with my teeth, the faintest drop of blood
still wet at the edge, proof of my newly mixed life.

I make a small prayer for early release, for the day
the tests no longer detect any trace of donor or of fever.


Health, an Expanded Definition

Sound condition of the body
            as in able to lift the wet laundry, to pin
            the full-grown heft of it to the line;
            as in legs that could brace for & bear
            the weight of any ordinary burden;
            as in the will to scab, to seal over
            the minor wounds rather than to fester.
Freedom from disease
            wherein the body remains temperate,
            modulating the heating, the cooling airs;
            wherein the throat refuses the hoarse voice
            of swollen glands & fever flush;
            wherein joints prevail, smooth movers
            well-oiled, the stiff seizing curtailed.
Vim & vigor
            the three-pronged pulse, a steady study
            under normal conditions, fit to rear up,
            to race when stirred by the beauty
            of another body, capable of calming
            to the languid slur of well-earned sleep;
            a zealous mass of cells at the ready.
Spiritual or moral soundness
            what was feared given up or lost
            in the inertia, that loosening of the spine;
            what will be a crucial element of the cure,
            the reason for the mystery & the mystics;
            what the body bends to pray for,
            daily oblations to a tight-lipped god.  


Sandy Longhorn is the author of Blood Almanac (Anhinga Press), which won the Anhinga Prize for Poetry.  New poems are forthcoming or have appeared recently in 32 Poems, The Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, North American Review, Waccamaw, and elsewhere.  Longhorn teaches at Pulaski Technical College, runs the Big Rock Reading Series, is an Arkansas Arts Council fellow, and blogs at Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty.