Alexandru Paraschiv CC
The Shell & The Wing
i wonder if the photograph floats
a temporary glitch in falling that turns the whole ass world
i ask a question and you lift the shell once more to my ear
you gentle the photograph with upward thumb
a kind of beautiful that lies on its side
till it remembers its own paper
and slips through the seam of the room
i ask you a question and the shell
stays in place as if having moved
the photograph of my lips and shoulders which i know you like do you like
me or the photograph it is fucked
you have told me where your thumb goes
it dances my part soft long against you frenzy’s compact pocket
space of my absence
i wonder what human water you’ve spent thrusting my face out of the way
i turn you on splitting the quiet air
exiting the world once you’re done
i ask you this question with particular care
the shell rotates i cough out a hollow hour of wonder
whether it moved in a pattern i can read
or your hand simply got tired
i never told you this: the first time
i shook your hand
i shook myself to splinters in the bed two hours later
tucking a wish into night’s pocket
like a penny for later
i ask you the question and you lift my chin to it
my ear cupped in animal sworl
it spirals cream ridges outward from your palm
i try to listen past the shell’s hoarded store of air
hear the blood moving through your fingers
my question is like a photograph of a bird trapped in a room
in a still its beauty is stuffed with purpose we impart
only to creatures we pretend more free than us
i can’t capture that flight is a race to outrun
my own skeleton splatter my panic in gusts against this human wall
every time i ask the well to love me back
this is not a way to treat an animal
i ask you the question each cold edge
of the shell scrapes “not my mouth” in microscopic script
cells my cheek will flake off later
confess: you are offering the shell as my new home
is this your way of trying to make me safe or make me smaller
i rehearse ungiven kisses against the inside of my teeth
fly into you like a closed window
i ask the plasma tech to forgive me for not being a bird.
A mother nests in a tree of needles. Keep skin smooth and report every bruise.
A hatchling opens to blind command. The needle slips right in.
I donate plasma which makes my friends healthy, my friends who depend on
plasma donations, except I don’t do it to make them healthy, I do it for the money.
I’m glad they are okay. My plasma gestures in the direction of their dispersed
need. There is no real chance that mine is the body keeping theirs alive. I wish I
could do this in their living rooms.
Bird wings are hollow. Otherwise no flight. Like being made of sharps.
My veins and I are thin and I’ve been bruised enough that the techs know to pass
me along to whomever has the best hands that shift. I apologize for the faulty
equipment I offer them. I bleed fast and well, at least, but it’s not like that’s a
thing I can try to do.
My donation is calculated by weight. Each visit I cradle footfalls on the scale and
Gravity declares what I will give up. Gravity sets his briefcase down and gives the
command. I lie in the donor bed. The tech punches buttons on the machine next to
me. A digital display 825mL appears.
The large bird is a tongue of metal. She struggles to pierce my blood line. If I
knew the muscle to tense, I would unlatch my vein’s jaw so it could eat the
needle. Hungry gulps of puncture. I want to open like a beak for her. I want to get
this over. The line goes clear to red. I flow beautifully, the plasma tech says. The
machine chews my blood and gives it back to me. A mother must process worms
along the way.
My down shakes as the needle shoves cold dollars in my body. I bleed fast and
well because of course I do.
The muscle in my chest knocks its walls. When my car engine knocks, I know it
needs more oil. I wait to buy 5W-20 until a warning light comes on. My veins
flash at me. I check the manual. There is a leak somewhere, too costly to repair.
My donation is calculated by weight, but it is not graduated. Up to a certain
weight the donation is 690mL of plasma, then 825mL for the next 30lbs of body
weight, then more after that. The tech punches buttons and 825mL appears. I
surprise her, giving this much. I am within a pound or two of the lower donation.
My body is as small as it can be and still be asked to offer this much.
For three days after donations my palpitations spike. My heart knocks off-time
like a persistent solicitor. I can’t think straight against its tempo.
In the video “Eugene Ranks Every Astrological Sign from Best to Worst,” my ear
catches on the notion that mutable fire, the Sagittarius elemental state, might be
like plasma. That’s what Eugene says, though he doesn’t mean the plasma I sell
twice a week. I am a Sagittarius and, as such, am much too much, a horse that
leaves a stream of shit in her glorious path. My children don’t think that’s funny
but I do. They ask to see the video where Eugene ranks fruit. It reminds them of
fruit existing. I turn the cans in the cupboard so we can read them as they
disappear. We open the pears tonight and imagine together that Eugene is our
friend. These are guilty pleasures.
In the plasma tube, little bubbles dance a minute before being dragged into
resolution by the machine’s suction. It is a deep, used yellow. It looks like
champagne. Some untapped luxury in me that I don’t know till I’ve sold it.
In a needle tree my bones vomit their matter.
Little empty cylinders of femur and humerus.
The last human straw.
This month the pricing changed. The needle pumps $30 into my body. The bills
rustle in my interior wind.
I can’t attempt flight. My bones are still too much. I pour motor oil through them.
My heart eases for three more days.
I make a deal with Gravity to ask even less of him. My footstep gentles the scale.
Air swims the minor margin of my body in retreat. I am lighter now, by a pound
or so. Gravity nods at the skipped meal. I make do with less of me so I won’t be
asked to give as much. The tech punches buttons and 690mL appears.
The needle touches my side and I race forward, dripping bloodwater in my horse
path. It’s in the nature of my sign.
At home each night I lay the pepper and the garlic side by side.
The stove takes a loan from the lighter. I knob the flame to middle high.
I think about the power of prayer and bite the flesh pit of my elbow.
I work fast in facefuls of freshly ungated blood.
Bruise a quiet new moon.
Collection calls for a siphoning.
I pull the water from my veins.
I pour it in the soup broth.
It lasts another day.
Jessica Lawson (she/her/hers) is Denver-based writer, teacher, and activist. Her debut book of poetry, Gash Atlas (forthcoming 2021), was selected by judge Erica Hunt for the Kore Press Institute Poetry Prize, and her chapbook Rot Contracts appeared summer 2020 (Trouble Department). A Pushcart-nominated poet, her creative writing has appeared in The Rumpus; Entropy; Dreginald; Yes, Poetry; The Wanderer; Cosmonauts Avenue; and elsewhere. She is currently at work on her second book project, a portrait of bodily vulnerability at the intersection of poverty, sex, and trauma.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.