With a wave of my hand—
yes, this hand wrapped in wrinkled skinfolds striated with veins like ridges across a mountain range, its ancient beauty splayed for admiring— With a wave of this hand I banish the illusionary elixir, this boastful bottle of serum, a trumped-up mixture of vitamin A1 commingled with vitamin B3 drowning in
calling itself retinol in a tiny-stoppered bottle—
stopper your ears, ladies, as the shouting begins
for younger looking skin!
an even glow!
I wave this loose-skinned hand in curt dismissal toward
Big Pharma salivating over its money-minting patent formulas,
peddling shame and barely concealed disgust
disguised as a conveyor belt of brainwashing chemicals
that swear to you they will plump your collagen and
expedite cell regeneration
give you back your best self—
or the self you expect to become
but this old hand knows better, now,
than to swallow lies saying I’m not good enough
not fit to be seen in public with wrinkles that
trumpet my status, my reality, my wisdom
I wave away all those seeking to stigmatize me
and with arms open wide, proclaim: Take me as I am!
Bones are the world’s truest democracy,
a jointed confederation of cooperation
common to every humanoid
irrespective of skin tones or sexual pleasures
What if our bones could speak for us?
I envision a convention of bones
in all their hardened ivory glory
bending and jangling,
this way and that
elbows, knees, ankles,
shoulders, scapulae, spines
our skulls normalized as visages,
not terrifying harbingers of death
and at this Bone Convention,
the talk is of unity and harmony
getting together for bubble baths
and backyard barbecues
and no one gives a thought to
whose femur is longer,
whose spine is straight or bent,
whose toe joints angle crookedly
for once we shed our skin and
once we have no reason to question
whose blood runs blue
or how our pants fit
or whose breasts are right-sized
well, then, we can no longer hide
the fact that we are, after all, much the same.
Carrying the corpus around for a lifetime
is basic to life’s bargain:
Wherever you go, there you are.
You’d think we’d make peace with this
elaborate bag of water that we
drag around for decades at a stretch.
Not like we have a choice.
You can’t stick your head in one room
and leave your body in another.
Or bring your head and your pretty hair
to the party, while your body sits home
alone, rejected, unappreciated.
One package is all we get—
the thinking, feeling, existing,
all tendoned together.
Your body is your home,
your genetic proof of ID—
only one to a customer.
Hey, that’s pretty neat, right?
You’ve got yours.
I’ve got mine.
No two are alike.
I’m gonna claim the one I got, then.
The only body I’ll ever own,
no matter what I do to it—or
try to do to it.
I can bend, stretch, twist,
pull, tear, break, abuse,
pet, stroke, love, paint,
I can do all those things,
and more besides.
But at the end of each day,
when I turn out the light
I fall asleep in a bag of water
blanketed in fragrant skin
dotted with hairs and holes
and the odd mole—
and it’s all me, all the time
and nobody can take that away.
Like a riddle that begs to be solved,
or a trick box with a hidden trap door
the mind is unseeable, invisible
for all intents and purposes
—not the brain, with its dura and squish
no, the mind—
What really goes on in there?
I’m never sure.
But I have suspicions.
The mind is a trickster—
and tricksters aren’t especially nice.
The trickster whispers, the voices
filling my private cavities
telling me I’m too this, too that
not enough this, not enough that
lumpy / saggy / loud / clueless
old / useless / unhip
the slaughter of messages flows on…
in the wrong place / ill-equipped
not clever enough /
over-reaching / under-performing
oh, yes, there’s more, but
isn’t that enough?
Isn’t it always enough? Too much?
I want to be in control, for once,
oh, yes! I want to take charge and
tell the mind what to think and say—
no longer at its mercy,
its torturing beck and call
the trickster mind maintains an iron grip
and so I’ll seek out a tiny crack
of unconquered consciousness
where I imagine myself the author
of all the messages
where a new voice emerges to say:
you are more than enough
the bees’ knees
the queen of hearts
the be-all, end-all
Who are you
right this very second
and who will you be
an hour from now
taking your last breath?
Who are you
when grief lays upon you
like a weight that cannot
When joy stops your breath?
When you catch a glimpse of
yourself in a windowpane or
in the eyes of someone close?
Who are you when you finally
come face-to-face with—
With all your perceived flaws
and faults and misgivings
and regrets and not-enoughs?
That right there, right then,
is your soul,
speaking your truth—
and to everyone who really
ought to be listening.
If ever all the souls converge,
if that’s a thing,
then we’ll all know
what we have,
and what we have is
our own glorious imperfection
alongside everyone else’s
and together, and also alone,
Amy L. Bernstein writes for the page, the stage, and forms in between. Her novels include The Potrero Complex, The Nighthawkers, and Fran, The Second Time Around. Amy’s poetry leans heavily on free-form prose poems that address psychological and political states of mind. She is an award-winning journalist, playwright, and certified nonfiction book coach. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium, or visit her website for more info.