Poetry by Chessy Normile

The Bell

Do you feel connected to the things you say?

Desperately, I want to be right here.
What do I have to do to be right here?
Air out my marble.

I’m a monk dressed in an old red nightgown.
If I cry, you may pat me softly on the back.

I’m reading Why Poetry, but then I stop
to devote myself to eating an orange
but then I stop eating the orange
to write down the line
“devote myself to eating an orange.”

Everything brings me back
to my original devotion.

A bird hammers the ground with her beak.

Recently I learned about a bell
who stood trial for ringing into existence
an insurrection. Even sick like this,
even bleeding I’m devoted
to my original devotion.
and it surprises me.

I swallow two hard white pills,
force myself to stand up,
climb the narrow stairs,
find my notebook in the dark
and finish this poem,
which I’ve been writing in pieces throughout the day.

Why? Why do I do this? What am I saying?
Am I saying what I’m meant to be saying?

Thom and I stood in the freezing wind on the beach today, snotting into our mittens.
We watched the waves split apart as they crashed—
the majority of each dove back into the water
but about 10 percent, in an explosion of white mist, peeled off the top
and disappeared up into the air—it was kind of like
the rind of an orange curled off in a fluid ribbon
but then the rind is actually the citrus spray
but it had that peeling gesture
and it reminded me of course
of my devotion this morning,
pulling the slippery seeds out of each piece with my tongue
and spitting them into a handful of peels.

Sometimes, I feel terrified
there isn’t a hem I’m reaching towards,
no one I’m following down the street,
no one telling me to swallow the pills
for my cramps and then stand up despite the pain
and find a quiet place to write all this down.

On the beach, my warm blood was turning cold between my legs
but I didn’t say so. Back in the car,
I moved the needle between two stations
to listen to the fizzy place where sound collides.

I know some people walk backwards through their death into the room they left.
Who told them to do that? Nobody.

Chessy Normile is the author of Great Exodus, Great Wall, Great Party (2020 APR/Honickman First Book Prize) and currently lives in Madison, WI. Instagram: @chessynormile