by Aurora Levins Morales
when it happened the right side of my body disappeared from the map
left only tangled lines. Everything dragged down towards earth
except for my pinkie that curled up and out like a twig.
when it happened my foot was pierced with fire, but cold and swollen
as waterlogged wood. my skin couldn’t bear the weight of my sheets.
touch made me scream and weep.
when it happened my hand was scalded, wracked with spasms,
a dense slab of pain. Five fingers set adrift from my brain
couldn’t cup, grip, press, pinch.
therapy began with holding my right foot in my left hand and squeezing
so it would know where it was. so the crazy screaming nerves would
calm down and remember to be foot.
Therapy was holding my runaway fingers together
reuniting the pinkie with the ring finger, teaching them to be hand.
Therapy was stepping on needles, on burning asphalt, on
glaciers. Ten steps. Fifteen. Try again.
start rubbing the skin with silk, they said,
with terry cloth
put sandpaper on the toilet seat.
apply texture to the hypersensitive and the dulled.
the arm, the hand, the leg, the foot, the face
no one asked, no one ever asked
about inner skin
about silk and touch and stiff
uno dos tres cuatro cinco
all summer at the gym in Havana
all day every day step, step, step
up down open close
my hand clenching, spreading, uncurling
my foot stepping, bending, arching
on the earth
but no one asked, no one ever asked
do you feel this?
the injured brain forgets the places it’s lost connection with
blank spaces in the atlas, unexplored oceans
find your missing continents, they said
grasp with your hand, put weight on your foot, touch your face
use it or lose it
but no one asked
do you feel this?
no one said,
pleasure is a lost continent
touch yourself with silk
how is your clitoris today?
use it or lose it.
stroke, stroke, stroke
No one helps me.
I explore the dry places and the wetlands.
Struggle to clench and release muscles that forgot how.
Rub dry sticks trying to raise a spark.
open, close, open, close
tracing the tips of nerves that have been sleeping
hoping they will wake up and remember to be delicious
The hand that dives in is still thick as a novacained cheek.
It cramps on the vibrator.
How do I tell which is numb,
the slick, ridged wall or the finger.
clench and release, clench and release
breath takes me down
breath is a bridge across numbness
closing gaps in the circuits
streaming past burnt neurons
chi dancing naked in the dead places
becomes my instructor
exercise imagination she murmurs,
wet tongue, long finger, velvet cock
breathe them into bound muscle
conjure sensation out of thin air
the imprint of memory
begins restoring the coastline of pleasure
mirages shimmer in the air, forgotten peaks
floating above flesh
breathe them in
breathe them out
become what I have lost
until nothing is missing