lazarus was a house on fire (WOMAN)

Written March 2017 for a host of Women’s History Month events from Long Island City to Harlem.

‘well aren’t you a fascinating creature,’
he mouths through mists of drink and i don’t think
he recognizes the perceptivity of that word choice
and no, i don’t mean fascinating- i mean
the other word, the one reserved
for the feathered and furred and
women like me whose bones
sing songs like fires
in the landscape

in my belly there is a house in
flames and i lit it
those rarities of space in which
we can stand inside our nakedness
human incantation of the wild
woman, incarnation of the
she was the one who
taught him
he never saw
the body as an altar
how to nourish a universe
with your own blood, selfless-
you need no scripture
to remind you
what is inherently

this is dancing in the
temple with feathered
this is the vibration
you came from

this is the deer you
locked eyes with
in the mists
before sunrise
this is the presence
you came from

this is the ocean
you crashed through
on new year’s day
this is the
shock in the

these are your
mother’s hands your
grandmother’s throat
arms that scale the
walls and legs that
make roads

whether blamed or
exonerated, whose
hand lit the match?
i tell them
i did, I DID IT
to remind myself
how to be brave enough
to re-birth
how to be whole enough
to remain free
when asked-
what would you save from
a house on fire?
i say-
a torch,
the fire.

if i took my clothes off
in front of you
would you press your palms
against the windows
in my flesh
try to suffuse the light
always stretching outwardly
try to bind the slivers that
split between your fingers
the smoke that pours from
my bones, each
inside the gesture,
he said
is what’s precious
so what lives inside
this moment?- this breath
this hand over hand
earth under fingernails,
climbing, this-
holy stillness
in the middle
of the night
skin i lull to
comfort, my blood
transfigured as
eternal mother, these
eyes filled with
emotion that never quite
spills, just-
wells, just- stays-
when i met myself in
the bent mirror at
the cloud gate
for the first time!
Seeing, with a capital S,
like all the light from
like all the restless
fingers like
i know my womanhood
is wilderness and i will
go to the grave defending
because i’ve been inside
the ground
i’ve dug that pit i’ve
laid with the mud
uninhabited, i
know what it feels like
surrender your eyes
and your heart and
your throat not to
god but to
but i am self-willed.
the word wild is a contraction of
the word willed
and this is self-willed land
this is
bones cleaving so
shoulders can crack and
wings can breathe,
fanned full against the space-
inward, seeking wonder!
i said i saw myself
in the ground
he said, in the gesture is
the treasure, what
do i want my fellow
souls to remember?
see me as the movement
of standing up out of
your own grave
icarus returned as
the messenger
they plucked my
heart from
inside the ribs
of lazarus
i said
womanhood is
and i will never
for that.

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