by Jess Rizkallah
sometimes i forget how big my thighs really are. my thighs could kill a man.
they could snatch the lightning like a cigarette from between zeus’ fingers.
they high five. they’re always high fiving, always stoked about something.
they meet each other like a prayer. they’re always praying for something.
this is why my strides are so long: i’ve got rosary beads where bikes would have chains
they’re dusty, always rattling like ghost of christian past —
i’m not afraid of saying “past” anymore, but i still like the way
my scars ooze hymnals. i hear them when middle eastern air
filters through the anise pods in my body.
and it’s muffled, but when i walk i feel my great grandmother’s prayers
travel like sap through my tendons. the bullet that went through her head
is nestled between two lives i don’t remember.
each life: an arm that cradles it like her son’s arms cradled her at the end.
my thighs have rings on the inside: who i was before i even Was
is trapped in my center of gravity.
my thighs are probably older than i am.
i think they belonged to my great grandmother.
i bet every body part i have belonged to a dead relative
and the way they curve or jut closer to the space around me
is to reach closer to the family i can still hug:
the people i still somewhat resemble
the biology that Civil War failed to claim
because the cosmic Will hanging in the soundwaves left us all with moles and hairs to inherit —
they connect like constellations, but more like something less precious:
something sleeping on the capacity to kill with the roots stored
in the nucleus of you: that planet that centers all the rings.
it hangs like a doorknocker behind your bellybutton.
when you’re born, the portal between you and mother is broken but so much has traveled between you before your body sealed itself. so it hurts to stick your finger in your middle,
to knock at your navel. something ancient is carving you from the inside out
you’re not supposed to know it’s there.
you’re not supposed to know why there’s a cellar in your stomach
because that’s where the lizards live — those dehydrated past versions
of all the Selves you’ve ever been. They wait to breathe when they sense
other halves of themselves behind other bellybuttons you orbit.
this is why when i meet certain people, i feel a tug at my navel,
and my breath wants to collapse into the cellar of myself. i can’t breathe
and i watch stars turn into fleas, chewing my vision purple.
this is why I like purple so much, why i collect it under my eyes.
why i trust my stride even when i can’t see where I’m going.
when i can’t breathe, i keep walking. they call me Thunder Thighs.