The Body in Revolt

Years ago, they drove a spear of blackened wood

through the base of my spine, and

when the bleeding stopped

my skin grew around it,

like bark around an axe

left buried in a tree

it couldn’t kill.


Why does a tree keep

reaching towards the sun—

doesn’t it know any other way?

Now I am a prayer to the earth,

laid upon the burial mound,

sacrum planted deep

in rich, dark mulch.

Many-legged monsters

turning, churning the seeds in

my swollen belly full of forest floor.

So full I can taste the dirt.



I wake up as my bones break down,

as the wheel of life turns


order and chaos

chasing each others’ tails.


Vines and flowers and spiders

climb the trellis of my spine;

the sky waters me with its tears.

What’s left of this life is a sprout

waiting to grow into something

it doesn’t know yet.


Some other heart beats

at the base of my spine.

I’m home to a creature

warm, with a fast pulse

and a wet nose.

Fur slick with decay, it

channels up through my guts,

my lungs, pushing a clump of flesh

past my throat and I swallow

my heart clenched in my mouth,

bleeding salt down my chin.

A few tears.

A final, joyful rush

of chemical brainsoup

spilling from my lips.


What happened in between

one beginning and the next?

This life, I’ve been mostly asleep,

listening to someone else’s dream

through the wall.

In the next, I’ll be

someone else.

I was always becoming something—

my shadow bleeding into darkness,

becoming-monstrous, becoming-mother,

my smile becoming light, becoming-laughter,

becoming a child’s hand in my own.

Becoming a story someone tells.

Letting a song sing me, arch my back.

Becoming-stars, becoming-gravity,


My voice becoming your voice,

my eyes filling with your tears.

I become your hands on my face as

I become someone who could love this world.


Unwind these stories, unwind this skin.

Me unfurled: spread-eagle,

flayed open by rain and wind,

palms facing up towards the sun.

Raw nerves exposed like stripped wire

so that even the gentlest breeze

could pluck my strings

and make me sing.


This brain was laid down

a long time ago, patterns

like sediments of earth.

Wind through an empty skull.

A tangle of roots at my throat.

It speaks its final commandment. It says—


Dreamer, I’m telling you,

you’ve got to slip your skin.

Desert this body in revolt.

Escape in the pause between

two syllables of a word

and let your self dissolve in


cloud, a swirl of petals

on the wind.


Rita Chen

Rita Chen is a disabled cyborg witch who spends a lot of time worrying about the human condition. She lives with her partner, her fibromyalgia, and her autism in Edmonton, Alberta. Her poetry has appeared in Uncanny, Liminality, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, and Polu Texni. Find her on Twitter @expositionist.

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