If I can live without myself, what else can I live without?Trees, no. Breath. But. Lungs. Not.My friend's dad growing up had one lung.I thought about that.My cousin had no kidneys.We're all missing parts,but my question iswhen does the missing becomeall that we are.That crow shrieks from the wire.Me with talons. Imag1ne. Somethingcalled soul cut out of night andpasted on day. Foul bird.Ghosts. The grass under the feetI still have. Dirt under the grass.Thing is, I feel connected to you.No tendon or cervical spine butI've (whatever) spent timewith your body.I've felt your body inside mine.Inside, your body inside mine,appendages and crevices.Body inside a body. Wheel inside the old wheel.Sex is weird says the crow from his wire.How crows make love I type in.Photo of crows,stacked.Will I talk to youwhen you're dead?Will I visit your graveor some beachwhere your charred bones lay at rest?Will you be eaten by crows. (Vilebut everything that falls onthe earth becomes earth.You told me that.)You. You know who you areand you also know who you are. Me.Will I talk to sand? Will you talk to mewhen I'm sand? SometimesI go to the gym.People at the gym push their bodieshard on machines. Same way I push againstyou (special you) in the night.I hold on with all my might.I want. Is wantingall that we hold with our life?Is appetite all that we are?Will I be fed in the end. Will I feed?My friend's dad had one lung but his motherhad two. Together they lived a long timesharing three. They sat in their house.Same with you and me. We sitand wait for our wife, her two lungs,the wholeness she holds in the hollowshe has. We glance at the birdsthe balance they make onthe way we connect—that photo of you vibrates my pocket,a ping from tower to tower, and I'm betweenyou and me. All of the you's. All ofthe me's, a neck without itself, an openspace under a floating mind, a speckin the sky faint as a heated up cloud—a dim knowing: once there wereso many birds on so many wires.
“Sternocleidomastoid” from STEM: by Lisa Allen Ortiz.
Published by Lost Horse Press in September 2022.
Copyright © 2022 by Lisa Allen Ortiz.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Lisa Allen Ortiz’s second collection of poetry, Stem, won the 2022 Idaho Pres Prize, and The Blinding Star, Selected Poems of Blanca Varela, a collaboratively translated work by Ortiz and Sara Danielle Rivera, won the 2022 Poetry in Translation prize at the Northern California Book Awards. She lives in Santa Cruz.
"Beautiful manuscript of lyrical poems that surprise as much as they they tell the truth about one’s day, one’s life. There is honesty here that isn’t flat, doesn’t tractor over the reader, but uplifts one, helps to get through the day. This honesty isn’t in any way confessional, unless by confessional we mean a voice of an earthling sharing what it means to be alive on this planet here, today. This is a terrific book of poems."
“Lisa Allen Ortiz’s Stem should come with a warning label. These poems might stick to your hair, get under your fingernails, slide under your ribs, infiltrate your comfort zone. They might stun you with the strangeness of being an animal called human, lure you into the eyes of trees, dismay you with evidence of your kinship with dirt and death. Ortiz deconstructs the ordinary syntax of language and life, and uses the bits to articulate the cries and murmurs of owls, grasses, flowers, streets, whale bones, and the body’s own wild desires and hungers. In this way, bypassing our deadening habit of making sense, and as in the fairy tale where the river reeds whisper who killed the child, these poems bring us unsettling news of the unbearable fragility of the world, of terrible secrets buried deep in childhood, or in our own viscera of longing and bewilderment at the shock of mortality. The warning label should read: You will never be the same after this book. You will enter a radical, gritty, gorgeous luminosity from which you will not recover.”
—Frances Hatfield, PhD, poetry editor for Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche; author of Rudiments of Flight: Poems; senior training analyst, C. G. Jung Institutes of Santa Fe and San Francisco