By Lauren K. Alleyne
The Body, Given
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
What is the death of the spirit, if not inattention
……..to the magnificence that is touch and tendon — the whole
mixed bag: shit and skin; the efficacy of sex and swallowing;
……..the fart, that holy, joyful noise? Isn’t the work of being human
the universe’s stubborn belief in flesh? Praise the vessel —
……..the faulty and faithful clay, the conviction of blood and spine.
Without the world, we met the death of God and language,
……..says the poet, or, there is no song without gut, throat, and tongue.
Ode to the Belly
After Sharon Olds
You who I grab in disdain, your dark
dough spilling from my hands;
mark of the Buddha and Budweiser
— shame-maker, you. Belly,
you are the dictator of fashion,
demanding loose dresses, roomy
waistbands, rejecting swimsuits
that expose. You are what I am measured by,
in your fullness, my lack. You, melon.
You, swallowed, unspinning globe.
In my dreams I am free of you —
I wear bikinis, do backflips, touch my toes;
but then I wake up wanting
to cram the world into my mouth
and let it fill you to bursting.
O, proud belly, you are the life-basket,
bearer of the thousand possible births.
You are birthday cake and wedding
toasts, fistfuls of buttery first date
joy, you are pints of Dulce de Leche
scooping up the shards of my heart.
You are my father’s bread on Christmas
morning, potatoes slow-cooked in ham fat
marking the new year’s plenty, you are
American apple pie, border burritos,
curried chicken with the skin on,
and Colonel Sanders’ eleven blessed herbs
and spices. You are each day’s necessary moon,
the house of singing, the cavern of bliss, the price.
Lauren K. Alleyne is a native of Trinidad and Tobago. Her writing has been awarded the 2003 Atlantic Monthly Student Poetry Prize, the Robert Chasen Graduate Poetry Prize at Cornell, and other awards, and her poems have been published in Black Arts Quarterly, The Caribbean Writer, the Belleview Literary Review, and Crab Orchard Review, among other journals. She is co-editor of the anthology From the Heart of Brooklyn (2003), and author of Dawn in the Kaatskills (2008), a chapbook. She is currently assistant professor of English and poet-in-residence at the University of Dubuque.