Hypertonia by Laurie Clements Lambeth

            Without intent, the muscles
                       contract, spasm, tremor,
                kink, shut the jaw, shake
                            food loose from the fork,
                       stun inert limbs awake.
                 Once, I was nearly shut entirely,
             uncertain what shape I might take,
                       spiral nautilus or hinged mussel.
                       Is the shape of life a great tightening,
            spun into ball or pressed into board?
                                              Light as a feather,
                       stiff as a board, the girls chanted
                               at Lisa Mattimoe’s party,
                 lifting my willing child-body
            with only fingertips.
                       It must carry weight, this life,
            all accumulation and heft,
                                                    into the taut
                            whisper of motion for a spell.
                When you hold me, living,
            the muscles yield to you,
                       but never entirely release.
                  When I am lifted to that final
                                     place, they will slacken,
                        the body a relaxed, melting thing.
And again tighten.
Laurie Clements Lambeth is the author of Veil and Burn, selected by Maxine Kumin for the National Poetry Series. Her work has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Paris Review, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. One of her poems was recently selected as the winner of Bellevue Literary Review’s poetry prize.