“Weighty Mantle” by Jane Cornish Smith, encaustic, oil, ink, glue, paper, 2014.
Birds still turn through bridge stays, streetways, city parks. Their
wings glitter iridescent, eyes flash red, heads nod with footfalls.
Did anyone know what was coming? Other warriors bound
messages to bird legs, sent these messengers aloft with code,
but the notes arrived late. Buildings hit. Bricks burned yellow
through the night. Buried in the wreckage of another bombing,
bodies crushed or lived on.
Some eat them. Others shoot them in sport. Some governments
rear young falcons to dine on those who infest cities. I’ve read
about them, you said while standing inside the sill on the top floor
of a hotel. Outside the thick glass, one feasted on what she’d
splayed, something bloodied, feather tangled, talon shredded,
young. Beyond the dreamhole, her meal, bodies of skyscrapers,
somewhere the field still swayed with wind. Another for my life
list, you said because counting birds mattered then (eagle, stork,
pigeon, dove). Could this fold be the welcome? Could you count
again what’s good?
Drawn one knee up. Support hip (blanket, block, towel). Rotate
femur. Un-sickle the ankle. Stretch piriformis, then sciatic nerve.
Un-clinch jaw. Fold forward. Stack fists or wrists. Place forehead
there, or if it’s in today’s practice, the floor. Breathe. Push up into
variation ( prayer twist, bow leg, shoulder opener ). Return to a
full expression. The matter isn’t more effort, but to effort less.
Memories, emotions, old wounds arrive. In the class some sniffle
against what burns or aches. Some keep silence. You remember
the story, what you tell yourself about what you did, the meaning
you ascribe. But rather than being caught, you follow sensation
inward, first to the body, then to the breath. Press forehead to the
mat. Let the weight of the spine ease. Come out slowly. Push up.
Shake hips free. Then, find the pose on the second side to create
balance. Remember the cues, alignment prompts. Energy flows
where awareness goes. Release the notes of warning. There’s
awareness of the story now—finally. Wings outstretched, you’re
here among kings opening to the stillness.
Laura Madeline Wiseman teaches writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is the editor of two anthologies, Bared and Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Book List. She is the recipient of 2015 Honor Book Nebraska Book Award, Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets Award. Her book Drink won the 2016 Independent Publisher Bronze Book Award for poetry. Her latest book is Velocipede (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist for Sports.