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The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2021

All Issues
JUNE 2021 Issue
Poetry

Behavioral Therapy


I got up at 4.28 P.M., Kawara writes
to Lippard and I write to you, with a nice feeling
of sheet on skin, before I noticed the hives
produced by oversleeping. It’s depressing to rise
at a reasonable 7.32 (in a Mississippi Holiday Inn,
no less) and I’m skeptical too of the pleasures
afforded by the earlier mornings, so this is the best
of his postcards, stamped NOV – 1 1969, then again
two days later by the USPS, travelling by weekend
and 5 ¢ on the back of bird’s-eye to avoid the 26 minutes
and human view it would take to walk from E. 13th to Prince,
I note, hands between knees, with a bedded sense like one three
years ago, post-drugs, AUG – 17 2018, recorded
in group text to a friend’s ex and a now ex-friend at 10.32 A.M.:


               I am lying such that, if you drew a line
               from my right breast down the rib and the soft
               belly that doesn’t protect organs
               and over the pelvis, past the flat front
               of the right thigh, over the knee, in sharpie,
               tracing the ridge of the shin and arcing the right
               foot, the line would be straight
               against the surface of the bed. My left leg
               is wrapped over me and under the right, its foot
               coming back up from the bed’s surface so
               I can scratch it. The legs pull something
               between them taught enough to cause
               arousal, despite the upper layer of my brain
               peeling off, or trying, in a painful bandaid
               separation. The cat is between my arms
               so is the pillow, it’s hard to explain, but if I don’t
               move, if I almost hold my breath, the pain
               stops, and its thoughts. Still
               it’s impossible to imagine I don’t have
               any regrets, but I want more,
               for the back and front to push down
               on the bed at once, I need a second bed
               on top, second gravity going opposite
               way, I need a falling dream, a shock
               that replaces the “if I have many more mornings
               like this I’m not going to be able to have any
               mornings like this again” feeling


but now with no stimulant cause. I stayed up
late thinking about childhood, that’s all, so my gums
bleed, as when I made the face of judgment,
breaking my toe. Experts say I manifest
all symptoms of stress: those of the bowels, the skin,
the mouth, the head, the endocrine system,
the nerves, the spine. Because I was kissed, I cried.
You get it: I washed with scented soap, despite
the orders of the foot surgeon, which led to dreams
of rape, the reason my genitals run
dry, and so on. My stomach convulses
if I fail to spit. My stutter returns
when my mother calls. The mold grows
on the shower, causing my back
to spasm, especially when I keep
a secret. Because hives, if they arrive
with heat, can indicate allergic reaction
to one’s own sweat, I sit in bed, avoiding
exercise, which is how I got here, why I have time
to visit the archive of my refusal
to move: as in two new years
ago, JAN – 1 2019, a dream that ended
with me, looking inside my window
at a woman who was not me still
in bed, watching me pull a baby
raccoon with a lemur’s tail off
a rabid calico I mistook for my own
monster, and why you are asked
to learn that bedrest causes
vitamin D deficiency. I know you
believe that I am not sick, merely suffering
from a disease of the imagination
or of bad habits, so I take a moment
to remind you and my doctors that
blood is no less real for having been brought out
with the encouragement of thoughts, now
I’m calm, briefly, waking
from a dream where my therapist, with my
encouragement, canceled our session
in order to play in the snow, so I have energy
to walk out into the sunlight and watch
my cancer take root. There is some animal
doing the dance it’s known to do
when it gets to see the sun, and if, in
imitating the squirrel or blue jay
I distract my body sufficiently that
I experience a reprieve, this is not
an indictment of my failure
to have danced sooner, but of life
for making dancing infrequent,
a symptom, somehow, of “societal
advancement,” which asks us to wait
until 1.30 AM and/or intoxication
to begin to lift our arms over head, unless
we have paid for a gym class, thrust
the hips, if we have access to that movement,
and if we don’t have access, there is a chance
this was also planned by some asshole’s
idea of advancement, bob the head, put a foot
in an unproductive direction and then pull
it back, keeping time, taking the hand
of someone and using it to rotate their body,
if they’d like to let us lead, or to rotate
our own, if they’d like us to follow.

Contributor

Diana Hamilton

Diana Hamilton is the author of God Was Right (Ugly Duckling Presse) and The Awful Truth (Golias Books).

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The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2021

All Issues