In March 2018, the Academy of American Poets devoted a week of our popular Poem-a-Day series to the theme Where My Dreaming and My Loving Live: Poetry & the Body. For this special week, we invited six poets to share an original poem of their own and to curate a selection of other poems that explore the Poetry & the Body theme through one of the following lenses: disability rights, Black Lives Matter, Dreamers and DACA, transgender rights, mass incarceration, and violence against women. Meg Day curated this anthology of poems related to disability rights.
I. Looking at you was the hardest thing. Taking off my clothes While you stayed dressed, II. Nothing. III. My body a knife, my shoulder Its blade, I cut a path before me. Or sometimes I’m an apprentice ghost Unsure in the art of haunting; No one sees me as I pass. IV. No one sees me as I pass Though someone is always looking, Translating texts of skin and eyes As: our lives are whole without her. V. The intention of the taker doesn’t matter; Shame lies only in not being had, Pain in too much having. VI. If you weren’t older by twenty years, Superior in race, middle-class By marriage and sighted, You couldn’t whisper strip And then refuse to do the same. We get away with what we can, And this poet gives what she gives. VII. Historically, it was a woman’s fate, a slave’s: Submission to a gaze s/he can’t return. VIII. I am not you; that’s you and not me. From a distance the boundaries stay clear, And fear lies coiled and sleeping in its place. IX. Up close, I look at you, give you My body without its mask of blindness, Allow you to see me, my eyes As they work at seeing you. And not because, as I have said, I loved you more, or am most good, Just well-rehearsed as vulnerable.