Ellen McGrath Smith

                            How Lovely | Mike Stilkey

                            How Lovely | Mike Stilkey

Camel Pose (Ustasana)


I felt like a hood ornament,
                                    like that; there
                        must have been a glare
I doubt they would have
            seen as beautiful.
                        Knees planted for
                                    the twenty-minute
                        pose, my hands
like wrenches on
            my heels, my head an
                        afterthought and hair
                                    a vine that sought
            the ground behind me,
I heard each scratch
            of every pencil, saw
                        the clockface upside-
                                    down.  In camel,
                        blood drained
through the C-curve
            of my neck to my
                        skull, steeping all my fears
                                    till they dissolved
because now I was nothing
            but a body—good or bad—
                        and it was something
                                    they could draw—
                        it had mass; it was not
filthy.  Blemished, but
            the charcoal arcs in pebbly
                        rasps could trace it.  As
                                    gravity revised
                        my face, I drew in
breath from below &
            above me, breaths
                        that grazed my tailbone,
                                    which was still
                        in place, while all my back
departed for another kind of stack
            in which each disk was re-
                        acquainted but with
                                    distance (like
                        the spill of a suspension
bridge, or old love brought to new).

The camel and my body—
white and factual
            inside the bright—
                        could never be alike but
                                    in diaphanous
                        intensity as lights
and sun bear down and in the
            spine a strange
                        endurance stores itself.
                                    When I had lost
            all feeling and become
abstract, the timer shrieked, I lurched
            toward that mirage—
                        my body standing
            on two legs.

Sirasana: Martinis



Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and in the Carlow University Madwomen in the Attic program. Her writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Los Angeles Review, Quiddity, Cimarron, and other journals, and in several anthologies, including Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Smith has been the recipient of an Orlando Prize, an Academy of American Poets award, a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine, and a 2007 Individual Artist grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her second chapbook, Scatter, Feed, was published by Seven Kitchens Press in the fall of 2014, and her book, Nobody's Jackknife, will be published this fall by the West End Press.