I am not entirely convinced that Roxane Gay is a single entity. I intend to find out at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, where she will sit for panels and interviews on both Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23
It’s as if the pinpoints are stars, and I am drawn in blue pencil,
the pictures between them.
Immaterial, non-print. I exist in the false-empty,
the heft within atoms. I think about what I eat.
Three times a day I mix powders
from twelve or more plants into a small cup of water, and drink
with held breath.
I am a being for whom healing is possible.
I think: I am resilient,
a microcosm. If it is possible to heal me, it is possible
to heal other systems.
Like the place of my upbringing, the leachate in the wetlands,
the landfill gases burning at the earth-sunk pipe. Stream,
hair, lung. Filtered and released
on the table in the low-lit room with its soft ocean
It is winter, but the room has been warmed for me. I’m left alone
with heat lamps at my undressed feet and belly. Wire-thin needles in my chest,
forehead, ankle, navel.
Isn’t this where I wanted to live once—
at the “throat and the wrists”? Pulses ready at the surface?
What I used to think of risk is so different
from what I now think of risk.
The needles complete their circuit, send me out. I consider the band of space just beyond
our atmosphere. Instead of it being black,
it is dark indigo and lit in pinpricks, like the fireflies
inside rubbed eyelids. My son is there. This is where I get to know him.
He regards me with curiosity…about the invisible parts, like oxygen, cloud. He cares less,
not at all, about the matter of the world.
I want him to desire embodiment.
I know his company before the first positive test of his biology.
in the field. And love there, without extract. I will
my whole body into reception,
and feel him brush against the needles
in a queer air. A quiver on the lightning rods.
This time it’s the North Pole.
A needle in the top of my head.
When I’m left to rest, I forget about the needle, because I have no sensation of it; but then,
I don’t forget.
The North Pole aligns with the pole star, Polaris—but I remember reading that this alignment
is temporary. Scientists say there will be a shift in the axis. Gravity exists.
I think—will anyone rename that star? Or will it fall back into picture, one light in the bear
or the dipper?
The planet shifts all the time. Stars shift. All time, shifting.
I think about circles, vessels. And elementary things.
Sailors who move through ice floes are called explorers.
A double-masted schooner takes a small group of artists to the Arctic Circle.
I wanted to go, but I was afraid of drowning. Though maybe
the cold would have killed me to sleep before the water suffocated me.
The artists carved houses in the snow, a string of domes along the open water,
rigged with yellow lamps and photographed
from a distance.
I saw it on a website.
It reminded me of the paper bags we dropped candles into
before my wedding—luminarias on the snowy walk. Was it
that we wanted beacons? halos? Whatever the artists were after, that’s what I wanted.
Mary Shelley put the creature up there, staggering over the frozen plates.
I loved the beginning and the ending of that novel. The captain’s ship frozen in ice for months, years.
Victor and his creature on the open icebergs. I never knew
which one of them was searching for the other, and which one of them was lost and wandering.
Mary Shelley was correct, I thought, to make that a place of reunion.
I thought that, in the Arctic, there was no such thing as pollen.
I forgot that pollen carries.
They found it, in snow core. A pollen assemblage had travelled long distances in currents made by air.
Then a barrier.
The pollen of pine was winged.
I thought a funeral pyre was the creature’s only option, but there could have been
a snow burial.
Circle where the Earth ’s
My daughter wants her brother. Wants to know his name.
His name is Wells.
For the cathedral town in Somerset. There is a clock in the cathedral with the Earth at its center,
sun in orbit around it.
Who named this planet for its firm substance?
Pulled the knotgrass, the rhubarb, the duckweed,
pulled the ore and the nettle.
We were hostages.
In the Arctic, countries float the rim in silence.
I think about the many tones that silence has, the underside or inside of pitch,
eardrums ruptured by atom bombs.
Polar bears were possible. Lumbering through the white nights.
What did the yellowing bears know about stars? Peered through
to the black and white whales.
The sailors who were called explorers saw blood on the orca and named her ‘killer.’
She was a mature female. She would bear pups,
but not every time.
I am treated for several symptoms. All parts
of my condition. My vivid dreams, my heat. My pulses
tell a story.
When I am pregnant with my son, my pulse
is strong and slippery. It is remarkable,
I’m told, how clear the pregnancy
pulse is. For weeks, I’m reassured
with yes, there, a thumb’s
Later, between ultrasounds,
after I’ve already made the inventory
of the too quiet ways
my body has reverted back to normal,
she forgets to take my pulse.
I ask her to check,
and she smiles to indicate
when she’s finished,
but she says nothing
and leaves me, and I put on my coat.
I think about him moving back from the line,
receding from the tether,
from the dot on the end of this pin, from any further
Spring has already broken these hours
when I knew his essence—what he would have carried into life.
And I was like every other woman who said goodbye to a son.
And what could I do but let him
go or return
to some other mother or version.
Kelly Hansen Maher writes poems, essays, and plays from her home in Northeast Minneapolis. She is the recipient of a 2014 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant in poetry and a 2012-13 Loft Literary Center Mentor Series award in poetry. A graduate of Emerson College and Hamline University, Kelly teaches creative writing with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.5