National Poetry Month Day 4: Arianne True






Encoded Anatomies


I – limbs

this is how it feels to be boneless
to slide over ground, only muscle

but when I lie down, bone-heavy,
each line draws a human body on the bed

how wild to still feel tired after days of rest,
how wild to still/have a racing brain

watching it walk, each step a lash
a soft curl unfurls along long limbs

that is not how I move anymore
not today, at least, not now

something is in my heart, or my nerves
something slows and numbs, I tremble

doctors will come with offerings
I already hold open and still

whole creatures live this slowly
cycles of torpor, breath, collapse


II – mantle, with contents

I used to think diagnosis inevitable,
to think all wrong things detectable
and known. Certainty has passed

through my organs transformed.
Something as soft and malleable
as an octopus has a hard, sharp

beak somewhere in the supple.
You can’t see it from here. But
there it is, and venom (call it

poison) spreads the same whether
or not you watch. Know what bit.
I’ll see a heart specialist next week.

I wonder if she knows which
tender set of cells grows itself
three hearts: one for each set

of gills, and one for the rest
of everything. There are not
second and third hearts

powering my lungs. She knows
that already, before meeting.
What will she and my body

say to each other in that office?
I’ve become more afraid, leave
trails of ink wherever I go.


III – (it’s not all in your) head (but it’s there too)

You look last at my eyes. We meet them so rarely these days.
You know what it is to be sick like this, a body full of
thresholds and tipping points. Too many people
I love are sick. From when we didn’t die. A
radula is a rasp, is a ribbon. In octopuses,
balance is fluid floating in fluid. This is
older than two summers. Roots in
the brain, the nervous system.
Your life hides in your soft
shell. Ripples (quiet). No
one knows what’s
wrong. What
But you




Author photo courtesy of author

Arianne True (Choctaw, Chickasaw) is a queer poet and folk artist from Seattle. She teaches and mentors youth poets around Puget Sound and moonlights as a copyeditor. Arianne has received fellowships from Jack Straw, the Hugo House, In-Na-Po, and Artist Trust, and is a proud alum of Hedgebrook and of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is currently the Seattle Repertory Theater’s first Native Artist-in-Residence. You can find more of her work online at More from this author →