“Hallowing, or the Black Body Returns” by Lisbeth White

Hallowing, or the Black Body Returns

By Lisbeth White

(after Harmony Holiday)

reparations begin
     the body,   within
the striations of muscle
    to tendon, nerve to tissue

which is what you needed
     to know
the first time white hands
    touched you   
            as they said
    for wellness

& what you have needed to know since then

as the body
     peeled open
             calluses itself
into thickness  secretes fluids
shallow as stumbled waves
            mute now
the tidal turn
  under steelhand of sky         
& icy
 skin bare   of itself

sprawling  also    

the body  
that hurts
    as it grows
which at age 11
    becomes a peacock colored skirt
            in your walk:   short    $12  
a deal  the hips           they see coming
before you do
    the cocooned hidden heart hanging
    in the bowl of the pelvis

shifting color   afraid   compelled

 blind too

     the body
in its hunt        for restoration
the braille of flesh       sharp
&  collapsing   beneath your own fingers
    you cannot be the softness
you long for    click against yourself
 ear turned inward       thirst crinkled tongue
   in dry excavation     seeking    

a mouth

  to hold the body
full & weighted
    as a holy word
             holy like wreckage
   holy like repair
holy like the eye traveling north
    in the sky

 a mouth

    that awakens on the skin
 every story the world
            has written on 
the body 
    dreamt and re-dreamt          

each lunar cycle

the body  with its sex 
    a sea wall    wild
  with salt spray     sacrament to the
    pious  tongue

the body  as a sky of dark stars

the body  as the damp forest floor

 the only beauty
      that has ever continued to hold
             above & beneath you


beginning in the body
    as seasons do
  opening slow as clockwork
one spring loosing at a time
    its own wind of want

the unhidden palm

    the hand that does not move
   without invitation    allowing
the wire of  ribs     to unfurl
reminds you
    what is it to float
  to open the bounty   balanced
like a jar of honey
    on the hipbones       honey
like what we offer the river
    for sweetness & favor         honey
like forgiveness    honey down the body
    like a prayer

down current

is the sea  & in it
the bodies of your grandmothers
    in the swaying grace of hymns
 in their own dominion

at last

 it is not the hands of others
    that will keep you tuned
  to the body’s artistry

your upturned unclasped palms
 sometimes plea   sometimes offering   

only your hands
             to right it   
the body
  ridiculous & free
as a praise-song

  echoing out of  distance
humming itself next to the bones
    singing in

A 2016 Pushcart prize nominee, Lisbeth White is an alumna of VONA, Bread Loaf Environmental Conference, Tin House and Callaloo Creative Writing workshops. Her poetry has appeared in Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, The Rumpus, Kweli, Blue Mountain Review, Apogee, the anthology Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and elsewhere. A developmental editor and expressive arts therapist, she holds a dual BA in Creative Writing and Sociology as well as an MA in Counseling Psychology. She is currently working on an experimental hybrid nonfiction project about elemental medicine and archetypal mythology. You can find her musings on Instagram: @earthmaven.