National Poetry Month Day 18: Janine Joseph





My Chiropractor Gives Me a Name


                                                                        for what’s the matter: the white
                                                                        stack of vertebrae curving in
                                                                      reverse in my neck in the revelatory film.
                                                                     I massage my misery but cannot see
                                                                    the error in what she touches
                                                                  on the negative, distracted as I am
                                                                by the sight of the illuminated
                                                               petroglyphs bucking beneath my
                                                           occipital bone. We can correct this,
                                                         she says—and she twice does
                                                       so fast I do not remember closing,
                                                      on the drop table, my eyes. On my back,
                                                   low tide and stray stars suddenly after
                                                 a decade, then her voice pooling
                                             clear in my ears. She by the light
                                             box where my spine lingers lets me
                                           heave an Oh! when I side-by-side see
                                         a healthy neck against mine and see—
                                        see my nape as held by the wreck. Oh!
                                       she leans in her study of what of my body
                                     the rays traveled accidentally: my costal
                                    cartilage long calcified, skeleton a lantern
                                    framing the air rendered black. I put my face
                                    in the reflection.


Photograph of Janine Joseph by Jaclyn Heward.

Janine Joseph is a poet and librettist from the Philippines. She is the author of Driving Without a License, winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, and Decade of the Brain, forthcoming in 2023 from Alice James Books. Her poetry, essays, and critical writings have recently appeared in The Nation, The Georgia Review, Orion, Pleiades, The Atlantic, Copper Nickel, Poets & Writers, and The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice. Her commissioned work for the Houston Grand Opera/HGOco includes In Our Care, What Wings They Were, “On This Muddy Water”: Voices from the Houston Ship Channel, and From My Mother's Mother. A co-organizer for Undocupoets and MacDowell Fellow, Janine is an assistant professor of creative writing at Oklahoma State University. More from this author →