Have you been content enough being this content?

illustration of a mandala comprised of the objects of the poem--teeth, frogs, needles, pillows, steaming kettles, flowers, the word should.
Art by Kristina Closs

Self-Care

by Solmaz Sharif

Have you tried
rose hydrosol? Smoky quartz
in a steel bottle

of glacial water? Tincture
drawn from the stamens
of daylilies grown
on the western sides

of two-story homes?
Pancreas of toad?
Deodorant paste?

Have you removed
all your metal fillings? Made peace
with your mother? With all
the mothers you can? Or tried

car exhaust? Holding your face
to the steaming kettle?
Primal screamed into

a down-alternative pillow
in a wood while tree-bathing?
Have you finally stopped
shoulding all over yourself? 

Has your copay increased? 
Right hip stiffened?
Has the shore risen

as you closed up shop?
And have you put your weight
behind its glass door to keep
the ocean out? All of it? 

Rang the singing bowl
next to the sloping toilet?
Mainlined lithium? 

Colored in another mandala?
Have you looked 
yourself in the mirror
and found the blessed halo

of a ring light in each iris?
Have you been content enough
being this content? Whose

shop was it? 

from Customs

I haven’t touched anyone in a year

Here is a poem I’ve always loved by Solmaz Sharif, whose necessary work, including her first book Look, I can’t recommend enough–and who I am lucky to know not just on paper but in life as a dear friend.

an illustration of a blue egg on a plate with white bones and line drawings of arugula around it
Art by Kristina Closs

“Beauty”

Frugal musicality is how Kristeva described depression’s speech

Cleaning out the sink drain

The melted cheese

The soggy muesli

My life can pass like this

Waiting for beauty

Tomorrow—I say

A life is a thing you have to start

The fridge is a thing with weak magnets, a little sweaty on the inside

A bag of shriveled lime

Arugula frozen then thawed then frozen again, still sealed

I haven’t touched anyone in a year

You asked for beauty, and one morning, a small blue eggshell on the stoop, shattered open, its contents gone

Likely eaten

M asked if I’ve ever made a choice to live and why

I lied the way you lie to the suicidal

few times, I said—not Most days

Most mornings

No, not morning

Morning I am still new

Still possible, I’m still possibly

Usually by 3:00

When grandmother died, she hadn’t been called beautiful in at least half a century

Is never described as such

Her fallen stockings, the way she spit, thwack of the meat cleaver, the little bones she sucked clean and piled on her plate, not really looking at anyone, and certainly not me