Half Shoulder Stand       By Marisa P. Clark

Look at the tops of your feet. She’s guided the class
into half shoulder stand and caught you distracted
by the ceiling fan, each motionless blade, and wishing
for a breeze to cool your 
sweat. You observe
your slender feet, 
the pale dry skin. 
Don’t put weight on 
your neck. Her voice
is soft, mellifluous. Let
your shoulders do the work. 
This pose always comes
easily: arms lifting you,
palms pressed into hips,
a sturdy brace to hold your
legs aloft, straight and stiff—
or scissoring the air so you won’t 
assess your thighs. Hush that restless
mind.  This is no time to list all you have 
to do or drag the memory river for its gifts 
of grief and grievance. Don’t think of her, 
or her, or them. And whatever you do, don’t
toy with words. Don’t parse the pose’s name, 
don’t snag on half—both shoulders wholly
hold you up. Remember to breathe, she 
says. You fill your lungs in gratitude 
until your shirt rides up, reveals
the mound of flab 
spilling belly onto chest. Look 
away. Look around and count sixteen, all 
of you multiplied in the three mirrored walls, 
and each of you an Atlas strong enough to bear 
the tonnage of the world and your own unspoken 
freight, and none of you collapsing beneath the weight.  

 Marisa P. Clark is a queer writer whose work appears in Shenandoah, Cream City Review, Nimrod, Epiphany, Foglifter, Rust + Moth, Sundog Lit,and elsewhere. Best American Essays 2011 recognized her nonfiction among its Notable Essays. She hails from the South and lives in the Southwest.

Guest Editor, José Faus is a founder of the Latino Writers Collective. His writing appears in numerous anthologies. His chapbook This Town Like That was released by Spartan Press. His second book of poetry The Life and Times of Jose Calderon was published by West 39 Press.

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