Creative Writing

The Contortionist’s Spine (a poem)

Two hundred and eighty-two days—
The number of days she hummed on my back
To the tune of B-flat and a black hole
Fifty-seven octaves below middle C

That’s where I’d like to go for a swim,
In star and moonshine
Somewhere between your green-apple flesh
In the taste of sugar lips and grapevine

That’s from where all glow descends
From far away and wholly too close to see
That’s from where I carry my heart
Between my legs–oh, my back, help, my back, help, my knees

Somewhere between B-flat and a black hole
Fifty-seven octaves below middle C
Sprouted a Pharaoh from a flower
And they say she conquered, but we both know she is too kind to conquer
Too stubborn, too curly, and far too clever to care

Will she sleep in her own bed?
Perhaps if we are calm as though air
Perhaps if we conjure up Time,
The contortionist’s spine,
And we bend back, back, and back further still
Until over it spill, spill, spills in a great navy sea—
A ceiling—
Beating and breathing and teeming and teething
And oh, here it comes—gasp, exhale—another feeding

Then forward we arch
Weightless we stand
Attracted to a universe strung like pearls in a band
Is the weight the dream? The universe, the mirror, the land?

I don’t know.

But I hear it; it echoes; and oh how it flows
And when I think I understand it—surprise! It grows

It crawled from outside inside and played drums with my art
It waddled from where we, the light, drove the darkness apart
Floating and sinking and slinking back with a pull
Tumbling and rolling and twirling and spinning
Leaping and falling and crying and grinning

Listening only as we do to the sound of One soul
Minus two hundred and eighty-two days
Minus you
Is minus me
Equals B-flat
Fifty-seven octaves below middle C.

But her–
Never minus her, for she was born at one hundred and fifty pulses complete.
The rhythm of our infant’s infinite infallible beat
Where you, and I, and the circle repeat

Oh my loves, you are my loves.
Always and in all ways. And forever.

Dedicated to my husband Evan Steele Fensterstock on his birthday.
Inspired by the art of Aldo Tambellini, whose work and talk I was fortunate to see recently at the Anthology Film Archives as the guest of dear friend Dan Koff.

And by a black hole, which, in fact, sings.