You hear words

By Gayle Brandeis

Poem

You hear words like burn and drown and freeze and scald and they’re just words to you. You hear stab and strangle and pummel and hack and they’re just words, too. A few letters, easy to say. Easy to move past. Burn. Drown. Freeze. Scald. Compact little sounds. Some may make you flinch. Send a momentary shiver down your body, raise a bit of gooseflesh. But then your nerves settle; your body seals itself again.

 

When your body knows these words, knows them in every fiber, the words change. They become the smell of your own scorched skin, the taste of your own blood, the sight of your own fingers on the floor, separate as dropped slices of apple. These words have become something more than words. They have become weapons, ready to get under the surface of you, pry you back open.

 

Your body remembers even when you no longer have a body

(some tender part of you still flinches)

(some immaterial nerves still flare)

TAGS: , , ,

GAYLE BRANDEIS is the author, most recently, of the novel in poems, Many Restless Concerns: The Victims of Countess Bathory Speak in Chorus (A Testimony) (Black Lawrence Press). Other books include the memoir The Art of Misdiagnosis (Beacon Press), the poetry collection The Selfless Bliss of the Body (Finishing Line Press), the craft book, Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), and the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement judged by Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, and Maxine Hong Kingston, Self Storage (Ballantine), Delta Girls (Ballantine), and My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt BYR), which was chosen as a state-wide read in Wisconsin. Her poetry, essays, and short fiction have been widely published in places such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, O (The Oprah Magazine), The Rumpus, Salon, Longreads, and more, and have received numerous honors, including a Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Award, Notable Essays in Best American Essays 2016 and 2019, the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award and the 2018 Multi Genre Maverick Writer Award. She teaches at Sierra Nevada College and Antioch University Los Angeles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *