The Beginning of January: Embodied


My abdomen jolts open but I can’t figure out what’s inside   a swimming pool?   an orchid?   a family?   I am 99 percent bright viscous intestine   I hear something crawl down into my second chakra then out through my first   I still can’t see what it is but it carries me slowly through the earth like a deep and heavy star   taking up residence at the core   so strange and new   a great booming home in my ears 

Here is my hand fighting with my other hand, all my hands are fighting, I’m  
a trichotomy of hands, left-right-center (from the top I look like that star exploding),  

and now my hands see each other and wave across skies. Booming, as you say, a home. 
Light resides in my belly and I love it there, burning on as if I’ve nurtured it myself. 

I see your hands in the sky   somewhere in the pink dusk above Tucson   hands fighting not in anger but a kind of wrestling   a workout between loves to simply feel one body next to another   what if embodied meant dispersal instead of collected?   feet running in joy over Brazil   a heart in Kansas   jumping happily into Illinois   oh and that Siberian ribcage doing salsa with a tibia between New Zealand and the moon

Enormous body! On Christmas Day I stood in the middle of a small bridge so I could feel 
the way the earth might feel poised between the opposites of space and direction and… 

from above did I look like two or more or was I gone, my body glazed in snow, 
my ribcage claiming all the imagination it needed to salsa down to you in Arizona? 

Many-bodied in a stream   the being on the bridge   is she always the same   or is she a constant river that flows down the block   reattaching to someone who stares out into the world from the next bridge   transubstantiated into the miracle of beam me up or down into a cell that runs its course and life from heart to ankle and all the way back   we heard a heartbeat today   running as fast as any river   two hearts in one body

Jung says: Love, soul, and God are beautiful and terrible. I agree and throw myself
on the snow to see if I float. Or melt. Or burst. Or freeze. Today I’m in praise mode 

for the two hearts walking beside each other, playing banjos or piccolos. And I swear
I hear them sing all the way to the Twin Peaks and back. Love, soul, God. And the body. 

Earlier today I saw my hands   they looked so weathered   more earth than flesh   tonight they reach into a new year   their dirt an echo and counter to words   I praise them to the mountains and  firecrackers   releasing a shout   calling out from the midnight hours to the turn of day   I sleep with a new life   breathe with a new heart   dream a catapult into the future

And what of the way the body turns to light? Does it turn to light? I think it does. 
Happy New Year! Once I walked through Times Square looking for zeros.  

It was the year 2000 and they were everywhere. 

Zeros and four plus one equals five   which is where we are today on this the second of our new year   where one plus two plus five equals eight   a stacking of zeros   an infinity of o’s and light from the screen where we watched an empty Times Square and a falling ball fill with confetti   the possibility of travel   a signal   light years away and so close 

Where shall we take ourselves? How shall we fly? Let’s squeeze our seven bodies 
into the ship that lights up our driveway like a tesseract, all escape and velocity.  

We’ll sleep here and there, up and down, take turns driving east then north then 
east, or west and south then further south—gone (if we go fast enough) forever.

Stand with me on the sidewalk where the Cabot Trail meets Fiset   don’t step on any cracks   place your tongue lightly on the roof of your mouth and send your breath through one nostril then the other   now bend your right knee and lift your leg up to your chest   hold it there with both hands   find your balance   a stillness in the ongoing   when you close your eyes you will find another velocity   a flying  squirrel and a flying fish 

I waited too long to reply. Now the country flies in a hand-basket to you-know-
where. (Not that I can’t say hell, I just don’t want to admit there’s a hell today,  

of all days, all days embodied in all the days imaginably embodied in the mirth-
lessness of climbing over a body through a window to rip the soul of a country apart.) 

Thrown back south from the northern gulf   trying to withstand the wall scalers   the screams   the bearded marauders willing to kill   who were those flying fish anyway   and why did I think they would protect us from mayhem?   it’s almost embarrassing to imagine we could escape   because of course we can   at least today   yet here we stay unarmed   with the privilege to believe we could and would be saved 


Samuel Ace and Maureen Seaton

3 Questions for Samuel and Maureen

What was your process for creating this piece?

M: We've been working with a simple call and response for years.  Sam often starts the collaboration wherever he happens to be living/teaching/writing and emails it to me wherever I am doing the same. I had gotten the idea of "embodiment" and wanted to explore it and could think of no better partner for the journey than Sam. I knew he would be fearless. So I suggested the topic and he sent me his first words.

S: The call and response between me and Maureen over the years has been an endlessly generative gift. It’s not unusual for us to begin with the body and the physicality of where we happen to be located at the moment of our writing. Maureen reminded me of this when we spoke about embodiment, and as often happens, our bodies began to travel throughout the poem, taking us to places neither one of us could have predicted when we started out. 

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?

M: We both love the hybridity of collaboration—two voices weaving, inspiring, taking unexpected, maybe even unacceptable, turns. We bring very different styles to our pieces, we love to surprise each other, and in this poem, the world surprised us, which brought an abrupt ending to our back and forth. 

S: Maureen never fails to shake me out of my more habitual rhythms, syntax, narratives, and imagery. We love to springboard off each other and formally we remain open, unorthodox, not bound by rules, except the ones we make up as we go. The energy of the poem carries us as it evolves. In this piece, we arrive back at the physical body over and over again, even, or especially, in the wake of the January 6th insurrection with which the poem ends. 

What is the significance of this work to you?

M: This piece is particularly important to me because I'd been thinking and writing so much about the soul in the past few years (since a cancer diagnosis) that I had kind of relegated the body to the background. I needed some help to go there, in other words, and Sam encouraged me, as he often does, to explore the difficult. Not that the poem ended up the way I expected. January 6th intervened. But Sam's willingness to set off on the journey with me was a gift, nonetheless.

S: Ahh Maureen! I’ve always believed that the soul is intimately connected to the body, at least while we are on this earth (after that anything goes!). You of all people remind me of that. During the writing of this poem, not only did January 6th happen, but my partner was in the early months of his pregnancy with our first child. I was deeply attuned and in awe of how he could create a home for a new (or ancient) soul. 

Samuel Ace is a trans and genderqueer poet and sound artist, and the author of several books, most recently OUR WEATHER OUR SEA (Black Radish Books, 2019), MEET ME THERE: NORMAL SEX & HOME IN THREE DAYS DON'T WASH., a re-issue of his first two books (Belladonna* Germinal Texts), and STEALTH with poet Maureen Seaton (Chax). He is the recipient of the Astraea Lesbian Writers and Firecracker Alternative Book awards, as well as a two-time finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and the National Poetry Series. Recent work can be found in Poetry, PEN America, Best American Experimental Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. He currently teaches poetry and creative writing at Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts. 

Maureen Seaton has authored over two dozen poetry collections, both solo and collaborative—most recently, UNDERSEA (JackLeg Press, 2021); ZERO-ZERO (Hysterical Books, 2021), co-authored with Kristine Snodgrass; MYTH AMERICA (Anhinga Press, 2020), co-authored with Carolina Hospital, Nicole Hospital-Medina, and Holly Iglesias; and SWEET WORLD (CavanKerry Press, 2019), winner of the 2019 Florida Book Award for Poetry. Her honors include the Lambda Literary Award for both Lesbian Poetry and Lesbian Memoir, the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry, the NEA, and the Pushcart. Seaton was voted Miami’s Best Poet 2020 by the readers of The Miami New Times.  

Together, they have recent collabs in POETRY IS CURRENCY and in HOME IS WHERE YOU QUEER YOUR HEART, a Foglifter anthology edited by Miah Jeffra, Arisa White, and Monique Mero-Williams (’21). Their first co-authored poetry collection, STEALTH, came out with Chax Press in 2011, and they've had two chapbooks with Ravenna Press as well: MADAME CURIE’S COOKBOOK (2014) and ROAD TO THE MULTIVERSE (2020). They've been writing back and forth from Florida to Massachusetts, from Colorado to Arizona, now for many years, having met in Manhattan as brand new poets in the late eighties.

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