for Katie Daley

i want to be you
i want my bones to soften
and melt into a voice
smooth and rich as honey on wheat bread
sometimes i’m all bone
breast bone
lemon bone
bone tool
picking in the folds of my brain
sometimes you can come into my arms
and hear the bones rattling
the bones of my dead
that i carry with me
from city to city
year after year
not given a proper burial
bones that whisper and scream in the night

i want to remove the thing
that carves into my cheeks
and put on your face
rolling into its own sorrow
rolling thick and sweet as a july night
on the mississippi river
i want to be you
to step inside your softness
that moves from the swollen mud
at the bottom of the slow dark river
to the crooning of the black night
to the layers and layers of thick sweet cream afternoon
without ever stopping
to disect the moment
into bones and muscle
dry sand and rock
that falls apart
that sits at a counter
trying to hold itself together
looking for a voice or a face
to wear long enough to get through
one more minute

i am outside
      my own bones
wanting to be you

so last night i stood alone
staring myself down
in the full length mirror
a long time
and i moved back into these bones
with their terrifying whiteness
their fractured memories
their rock strength
i moved back
into the marrow
back into the red blood cells
being born
one after another
into the blood shooting up and down
through my heart
scarlet as my lipstick
against my pale face
the lines carved in sweet lemon creme pie

wendy shaffer

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