for Elizabeth Murray, our Great American Painter
Who says these are the answers? Blue for sky, for ocean, for elephant. Why not paint with breath? With bone sanded smooth beneath our fingers? Why not sew our bones with mud and root? Smear light across our chest until it joins the flame within our spine. Until it ignites the squish of our guts. Until we have no choice but to propel forward, the soft curl of our hair smoldering behind us.
The modifiers we speak aloud cast shadows long as barns. Good. Bad. Young. Old. If only we could pluck events out of the ether and set them between us on the kitchen table. Let them be. Let them exist as themselves, as I wish for myself. Children after forty: brave, they say. I need no map for where I’m going, and yet people press them into my palms like money. The personal absurdities of the masses hang, like art, against the walls of rooms I enter. I shield my heart from their glowing eyes.
If I need the flu to function between words, within phrases, to see the truth of ocean and sky, how productive could I be? I paint myself a fever seeker. How quickly an obsession can root in the taunt ligaments of our bodies.
Pinched skin wrinkles. Is this anatomical law or the law of pinching? I hide my secrets in my soft folds of skin, a place where words aren’t welcome, where only emotions reside. The shudders of shadows I’ve hidden vibrate the slick flesh of my muscles. This moves me while I try to still. But still –
There are no corners in the human body. We’re all bulging curves and clustered emotions. What happens when our casing cannot contain us any longer? How many spills I’ve cleaned. Who will we allow to see our secretions? Our flood? Our finish? I climb towards my final undoing and close my eyes to the thought of who will mop up my last movement. And still, forward.
Kristin Kozlowski lives and works near Chicago. Some of her work is available online or upcoming at Longleaf Review, Pidgeonholes, Flash Frontier, and others. She is currently and always working on a novel. If you tweet: @kriskozlowski.