Trace Elements

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I like to think that I was asked,
Who wants this body? and I did,
that I raised my hand and claimed it.
That when I stepped within its boundaries,
it still gleamed, smooth and unblemished
as a tumbled stone. It had been
prepared for me. I didn’t know what flaws
to look out for. It was my first time in a body.

In the bright world, the world that this skin breaches into,
the body is an animal that wants.
Any animal that hungers is one that fears.
So I feed it, but its hunger keeps returning.

Here is a person in a cage of bones.
Here are bones wrapped in spools of flesh.
Here is a life that is made of water
but is not a part of the sky or the sea.
When I try not to think of the illness,
I think only of the illness.

Here is the point of no coming back.
Here is a shipwreck in a bottle.
The empty mast has broken, snapped over in some gray storm.
The bowsprit is a briny woman carved of wood.

Here is an hour spent drawing vials of blood,
labeled with a name that my father provided.
Here is a meander through ashy trees,
my legs against the warm damp ribs of a horse.

So far, I have outlived both Jesus and Sylvia Plath.
Salt seasons this body and preserves it.
I like to think that I will be asked,
Are you ready? , and that I will be.

TRACE ELEMENTS by Chera Hammons


Photo used under CC.




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About Author

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Chera Hammons is the Writer-in-Residence at West Texas A&M University. She received her MFA from Goddard College. Her work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Foundry, Rattle, Ruminate, Tar River, THRUSH, Tupelo Quarterly, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Amaranthine Hour received the 2012 Jacar Press Chapbook Award. She has published two full-length poetry books — Recycled Explosions and The Traveler's Guide to Bomb City (winner of the 2017 PEN Southwest Book Award) — with a third forthcoming from Sundress Publications. She lives in Amarillo, TX, and serves on the editorial board of poetry journal One.

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