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.