"Letter Beginning, 'If My Body is a Text'" by Kiki Petrosino

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The following poem was written for our episode, "If My Body is a Text," which explores how to absorb and address the flood of images, video, and information online when paying attention can be painful and exhausting. Listen here.

 

LETTER BEGINNING, ‘IF MY BODY IS A TEXT’ by Kiki Petrosino
 
then you must learn to read. My hands, double book of them
the threat you think my hands become when they unfold, hello.
 
You find me in the cool of my car. Slim universe of my colored self, slim chance of saying what I need to say to turn my hands into a book
 
or turn me back into the child who memorized each rank of angels Thrones Dominions Virtues Thrones—
 
You, too, must learn to read.
There, in the lagoon of every book:
 
a body I pulled up
by the hand.
 
Another body I lift
beside mine, my thoughts
becoming
body of light
body of light
 
You, too, must learn to read.
 
How it feels for a colored child
to lean & loafe, to take her ease in a thought—
 
Like skimming across some blue wideness
the moon appearing in day-sky. You’ll say:
 
I didn’t know that was possible, didn’t know before
the possible—      
 
You, too, must learn to read.
 
At Monticello, once:
the 13th amendment hung
for three days, brown & spotted
as a lion’s muzzle, pale syllables
of Lincoln’s signature slowly
fraying under glass.
 
I wanted that warm
page of skin, its words
slanted alternatingly, as if
the pen had wished
to loafe against another body
endless field of work, America, endless
animal face in the work—  
 
You, too, must learn to read.
 
I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom.
That ain’t no harm.
 
I drove my car this morning with my mind stayed on freedom.
               That ain’t no harm.
 
I held my hands at 10 & 2, my mind stayed on freedom.
That ain’t no harm.
 
I spun the warm wheel of my life so smooth this morning.
No harm.
 
I drove towards sunrise this morning, all morning
my mind stayed on freedom.
 
No harm, no harm.
No harm
 
You, too, must learn to read.