by Leslie Contreras Schwartz
A body must remind itself
to keep alive, continually,
throughout the day.
Even at night while sleeping,
proteins, either messenger, builder,
or destroyer, keeps busy
transforming itself or other substances.
Scientists call these reactions
—to change their innate structure,
dictated by DNA—cellular frustration,
a cotton-cloud nomenclature for crusade,
combat, warfare, aid, unification,
scaffold, or sustain.
Even while the body sleeps, a jaw slackened
into an open dream, inside is the drama
of the body’s own substances meeting
one another, stealing elements,
being changed elementally,
altered by a new story
called chemical reaction.
A building and demolishment,
creating or undoing,
the body can find movement,
functioning organs, resists illness—
or doesn’t. Look inside every living being
and find this narrative of resistance,
the live feed of being resisted.
The infant clasping her fist
or the 98-year-old releasing
hers. This is how it should be,
we think, a long story carried out
to a soft conclusion. In reality,
little deaths hover and nibble,
little births opening mouths
and bodies the site of stories
and the tales given to us, and retold, retold,
never altered, and the ones forgotten,
until this place is made of only
ourselves. Our own small dictators,
peacemakers, architects, artists.
A derelict cottage,
a monumental church
struck in gold, an artist’s studio
layered with paints and cut paper,
knives and large canvas—
the site the only place
containing our best holy song:
I will live. I will live. I will keep living.
Last updated November 23, 2022