National Poetry Month Day 16: “The electric body” by Matthew Siegel


The electric body

changes like a sky bleeding peach,
gray feathers and smoke –

                                               – a body circular as the earth,

water and air,
rivers surging through.


Eight quarts
of blood

run laps inside
my body

arrive, leave
like a Psalm

the chorus
to an electric body-



At sixteen something broke inside me
in the gym locker room. I’d never wear

those shorts again. Breath swept
from me;

mist pulled
from boiling water.


My body is a series of bodies:
now & before

I realize how much blood
moves within me.

I wear this living skin –
wear it in the sunlight,

in the forest, in the city –
wear it like a suit

of metal, a suit of gauze –
my face of abalone, of straw

assembling, trembling
apart in the water.


Dr. Green wore black vests,
had no skull. I could see the folds of his brain.

My mother told me how he kissed with his mouth
open. Waiting in my underpants

in his office I stole gauze pads, tape,
a plastic model of an inflamed colon

to show my mother how I felt inside.
It was hard to make her laugh back then.

His eyes, I really remember, sad like a horse’s eyes,
ringed with dark just the same.


Then came Dr. Chen who quietly examined the surface
of my tongue that day in his California office.

He laid me out on a table, touched my ankles,
wrists, neck with his starfish-hands.

At the bottom of his clear mug,
a bag of green tea bled into hot water.

He marked Chinese characters on a chart.
He told me even in English, I wouldn’t understand.


The first time I take the shot, I jab myself
in the side of the stomach, over an old wound

invisible to me. I shake a little as I pinch the skin
and wait for my body to finish sipping

from the thin needle. The doors to my body swing
open. Air rushes through the hallways

all the lights flickering on.


I want to make music
from what isn’t broken,

make memory disappear
like medicine absorbed

in the blood. I want to whittle a whistle
from my bones. Tenderize the sky.

Smear with my thumb
God’s purple night makeup.

Hello, hidden pain. So strange
how you resemble my old face.

Won’t you come inside?

Matthew Siegel

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →