The Bone Essay, Prayer Before the Decorative Fireplace


The Bone Essay

The rain sets its liquid feet down
on the pavement ahead of me

as I waver my way down the block
with one crutch tucked into me like a loved one.

It is the third or fourth return to this
kind of practice, and this time, I want

some swagger, a soundtrack
of my friends’ favorites     Orville Peck
                                                 Gucci Mane

In the hospital, I lost count of the number of hands
that touched me without touch. The sheet

lifted around me, just a wrap away
from winding cloth. The days since slip

like a long, watery night through my hands.
The ultrasound shows interval recanalization.

Like an ass, pulling a barge, I make my way
through my veins, imagining the accrued silt

of the clot in my thigh. I hope this soil sprouts
some equivalent of lilac, that there may be

something sweet-smelling and syrupy
in the sludge of my blood’s trauma response.

I too, stilled myself to a thick silence after
a hand raked through me, removing what

had been solid. I talk about my venous system
like it is a spirit, kindred but separate. I created

a Greek chorus of myself, assemblage of voices
to carry the varied notes of my sorrow.

but they all had my pitchy tune. I am learning

to carry the full weight of me again. Anne Carson wrote
of the woman, wind-stripped and skinless, honest.

I prefer the rain’s slow dissolve, akin to thrombolysis:

the simple charity of the nurse slipping down her mask
to show me her face as I cry out when the contrast IV won’t hold,

of my father pushing the needle into my stomach—
the sharp edge of shame and intimacy, the shimmering air around it.

Each step serves as an apology, though I am unsure
which crimes I have committed against

myself, and which myself has committed against me.
Perhaps this is forgiveness: where guilt muddies

itself in a summer storm. Perhaps healing
is not the ability to outrun the lightning, but waiting

for the wind’s promised performance
of thunder, listening for its particular pitch.

I am listening to the cadence of my footfalls, the oceanic of my leg

in the ultrasound machine. Always, I crave
liquidity, the prospect that I could at any moment

tumble softly from the sky, a chorus of unafraid,

                   a muddied and laughing storm of self. 

Prayer Before the Decorative Fireplace

Bless the careful carved grey stone—smoke that refused
to leave, that stayed until pressed into itself so hard

it no longer could leave. This is how I imagine the nights
of flashback and sleep paralysis begin: me, crawling in bed

until I become a stone, a fossilized intimacy.

Bless the flower and family crest I know best by the feel
of sharp petals and swords. An absence announced and contained.

This is how I imagine my whitened retinas: decorative mantle
in the center of each eye – smoke pools with nowhere to go, DNA

the family crest circled by healthy tissue.

Bless the straight-line sharp relief of shadow, awning
on a rainy day. The only handhold in a ravine of violence,

what remains becomes a haven. Here are the things chiseled
into and away from me. Here I am, not so functional as I used to be—yes,

I was full once, a bright and hot mouth, some kind of joy to be contained.

Bless me, petaled slate lips: bless me, stone built to withstand the fire.
Bless me, stone gone cold now: hollow. Bless me, space still held: ready.

Anna Binkovitz is a writer and educator based in Minnesota. A graduate of the Sarah Lawrence College MFA program, Anna’s manuscript was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Pamet River Prize from YesYes Books. Anna has been selected to attend residencies and workshops with the Vermont Studio Center, Winter Tangerine, and Open Mouth Reading Series. Anna’s work has appeared in The Shallow Ends, Crab Fat Magazine, LUMINA Online, and elsewhere.