Human: A Lesson

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 22:47 -- eibarra

Enid Ibarra

Human: A Lesson


When I was fourteen, I pressed my hand against

A stranger’s chest and learned that a heart

Has four chambers and cannot feel

And I hmmed with the satisfied ease of someone

Hearing in words what they’ve already known in feeling

Because in my heart there is no room to love,

Or fear, or hurt, or rejoice in the world around me -

Only room to tha-thud in a dulcet beat and pump

A river of that rich elixir through my veins

To keep my limbs supple and my mind willing

For all the passions that may consume me.


When I was sixteen I learned that the limp in my stride

Happened because I had the hips of a 62 year-old woman

And I laughed gleefully, not at all surprised

Because where would my life rest if not on my hips?

Where would my worries and fears sink to,

My dead hopes and forgotten dreams fall to,

My thoughts and beliefs and intentions stem from

If not from the fleshy nook where I can balance children,

The soft curve of my body that sways to nostalgic 50s,

The rotated bones that twinge when everything gets too heavy?

They ache in the cold and wail after a single flight of stairs

And sometimes they get stiff and keep me awake until

The sun peeks over the illusioned horizon I will never touch

But they get stronger and, one day, they will hold the whole world.


When I was thirteen I caught bronchitis and learned

That the lungs were powerful things and hacked my way

Through four consecutive days and nights

And knew there was no room for the breath my body craved,

Because while my unwavering heart was too busy

Circulating life throughout my body to cradle anything but

An electrical impulse, my ribs gave shelter to

Everything I held dear, understanding that some things

Were simply more important than breathing,

So I gasped for air and felt Love press against my bones;

Felt everything I live for rattle against my bruised and aching ribs,

Right there, snug against my throbbing thoracic

So they could feel the pulse that beat for them.


When I was nine I squinted my eyes and learned that

To see the world was not to see blurred edges and indistinct figures,

But to see through a pair of flimsy brown frames

That balanced precariously on the bridge of my nose

And hid my face until it became less familiar than

The reflected lights that flashed off the glass between

Me and everyone else, and I became a stranger

And my wide eyes became afraid of exposure

And my ears got used to the weight of an unblemished view,

And my face, my identity, became defined by the fashion

That trampled the freckles on my cheek and the mole

A little ways off from the center of my nose, and my name

Became synonymous with the girl with the big glasses

Until a near-decade later a pair of silky iris-fitting lenses

Gave me my face back and let my eyes feel the burn of the sun

And showed me face value does not necessarily come

From the face, but from the eyes and the mind that exist behind it


When I was twelve I had a dream and learned that there was a hole

Lost somewhere between my intestines, a place where uneasiness

Was dug into me when I was too young to distinguish

Nightmares from reality and now it festers and calls at my mind like

A twisted kind of indigestion, only more lethal because of a truth

I haven’t been able to admit to myself, a truth that was thrown back

At my face when I tried to give it to someone else,

So it sits in my gut like a shattered universe and on bad nights,

It shrieks and lets loose the ghost of unwanted touch on my skin

That can be soothed only by forcing my bones to become hollow,

My hips to go numb; by turning my ribs into a safe haven

And my mind into a barren landscape so that the image

Of the glinting bathroom floors and the echoed whispers from

The safe side of the door would not be able to reach me


When I was fifteen I stopped breathing and learned that the mind

Was a tricky thing to be, because everything we are exists

In the complicated and not entirely known habits of the brain

And mine was sad and alone and lacking in good truths

And it turned my hands against myself  and made thought

Into a noose, but it gave me the strength to whisper nice things

To an empty room so that I could pretend that they were real.

My brain held my tongue like a prison holds a bloody-nosed

Black man unsure of where the night has gone

And it leered back at me like the officer that wears his badge

Like a band around his coward arm; and my brain does not

Like touch, and does not know how to love and sometimes

My brain turns into an ocean of nothing and everything I know

About swimming gets lost and my legs do not care to kick

My drowning soul to the surface for the air I would give away, so I sink -

And land on a beach where the sun does not hurt my eyes and an

Ocean breeze slips into my lungs, careful and light enough

To tickle the love inside me and fear becomes a distant star

I can not see from behind the sky and a soft and rusty melody

Takes the pain from my hips and carries them into a dance that

Makes my heart pulse like worlds could exist inside of me

And I learn that being alive is kind of a wonderful thing to be.


This poem is about: 
My family
My community
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


Need to talk?

If you ever need help or support, we trust for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741