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by Gretchen Goeke Dee of Manassas, Virginia
a sophomore majoring in wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment

When the blade burnt
through my flesh,
Inciting a frenzy
of enraged nerve endings
screeching pieces of myself
like families whose homes
were torn apart by a tornado of metal,
I shot my shaking hand
under the harsh flow of sink water
Hanging it there for an eternity
and recognizing the warmth of my blood
that burning part of me was now
spattered about the bathroom floor
on my friend’s clothes and skin
in the mirror and around the faucet
little red wildfires that would quickly
sputter out and die a cool brown death.
I couldn’t locate all of me
And I didn’t have the strength to want to.
But I did wonder hours later
Through harrowing dreams whose origin lay
In the fleshy swell of my hand
where pain came in like tidal waves
Crashing onto the shore and leaving itself
embedded in the sand
where it would land over and over again
tearing morsels of calm out of me
staining my coast with a constant question:
“What does it mean to be whole?”
From the day we are born
Our squeals of life wiggle into others ears
Our saliva coats toys and pillows and lovers
Our breath powers lives that are not our own
Our blood stains sidewalks and band aids and
friends who bear parts of us inside themselves
We are consumed and consume constantly
Our bodies multiply what is lost
Severed skin scarring slices with soft tissue
Water wrung into us through wide mouths
Cells splitting over sanguinary sacrifice
As mine did beneath sheets of gauze
Hours later on my way to the hospital
hand wildly surging with blood to the moment
They tugged my tissue back into me
Sealing the suture where I had leaked away
so much of me gone to the fabric of life
though I could hardly fathom caring
as the immensity of all invaded my veins
Infinite transplants of emotion and sensations
Melding every mind and movement into more
Branching bodies binding all born and unborn
Entropic entities emitting enough
Of everything onto each other
What is wholeness but a clamor of dissolution?

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