I am writing a spell for your nervous system

This year’s Sparks Literary Festival was cancelled once during our Snowmageddon State of Emergency this January, and rescheduled for late March. We all know how that turned out. The festival is wonderful, and it’s one of many recent cultural losses. I’d entirely forgotten about the associated poetry contest until I got the email saying I’d won first place. I was more moved than I probably should have been. I think I’d forgotten that unadulterated good news existed. Congratulations also to Grant Loveys and Maggie Burton. Sparks asked for a video of the poem to post, so my artist friend/collaborator April White and I worked together to create this video. Which is to say, I had an idea, and then she jumped in and actually made this beautiful thing. Thank you April. The poem was written during an entirely different time, but it feel eerily relevant right now. ❤

Or view video on Vimeo here. Text in the video is the poem below.

I am writing a spell for your nervous system

and hiding it in a poem.
I know you’re trying to stitch

the world back together
while it breathes and keeps

breaking. Like you. Another
heatwave, hurricane. Grief

gurgles like a sump pump.
The arctic on fire. Thirsty birds

of industry, mouthing
dry wells. Bulldozers

in the olive grove. Prehensile
suits in a sealed building,

deciding who deserves
to be a person. Baby monitors

tuned to the evening news.
Geologic time is breathing

hard. Your nerves: clenched
shut like barnacles and still

flinching. I am casting a road
out of the city. Stop waiting

for CNN to self-soothe.
Stop memorizing formulas

for herbal abortion, just
in case, even though

some futures are no longer
unimaginable. Here

is a highway that vanishes
behind you like wet footprints.

Gravel pullout, the rule
of three boulders across

an unmarked road. The car door
closing with a reverse bang,

retracting into itself
the existence of cars.

Because you are in a poem,
rusted mile-markers appear

only for as long as you walk
the dirt road towards them.

Now a marshy spot, now
lily pads, now wooden pallets

thrown down for you to cross.
Labrador tea and pitcher plants

flanking a narrow trail, and
wasn’t it ever only this?

An opening in the trees.
Worn stones sloping down

to the flickering mirror of a pond.
Step out of the idea of clothes,

into a shallow dive.

with your reflection—and
gone. A beat later, slick

and blinking, as if from a dark
room: somersault, scissor kick,

glide. Your body diamond-tipped,
a stylus polishing a groove.

Practice this skin. A dark map
back here, sparking, neural.

When it is time, walk up out
of the pond, dripping with

what made you. The world
leans down over cupped palms

to blow you dry. When you are
ready for clothes to exist,

clothes. The path winks
into existence before you.

Eventually you think,
I had a car. Onward,

the messy heartbeat
of the world. And whatever

work you have to do,
you begin again.