Inside these Limbs
I am a body of uncharted territory.
My anger moves through me, thrashing and crashing like the frigid waves of the Oregon coast.
Ask me to be calm; I will beat your heart into sand.
Except when I become quiet, like the pine needles under amanita muscaria, her red cushion top with her white polka dot decorations.
But, shhh, don’t touch or taste me; my toxins will destroy you from the inside-out.
Can you recall what that feeling is?
To be alive.
I feel it most when the wind whips, and howls, and caterwauls.
I become electric.
I am electrified.
Like in 2007, when a mini-hurricane hit our coastal town, ripped through everything:
trees, windows, roofs, houses, my soul.
Out in the dark streets I wandered; my hair reached out around me, an extension of flying branches; a power line snapped down in front of me.
Its fiery tongue relishing the release, lapping at my toes, gasping for air.
This is what it means to live your life on the edge of the world’s edge.
Thousands of stars in the sky, rain bleeding from their blinking eyes.
The moss on the ground, between my toes, under my naked limbs; swallowing.
The canopy of trees, sheltering us from everything but ourselves: hearts stretched too far, bodies pressed together, and so close to the wood and the bark we become the trunk of the tree.
Another force with which we can never reckon.
And me: my open wounds, my rivers and ravines, my cliffs and edges and curves.
This is how you break a heart.
You reach out for everything all at once.
You devour the sounds and the smells.
You lean in.
And after all this time,
I am still not sure
where my heart lies
when I go to sleep.
When the cherry blossom began
to hollow out,
to fill its crevices
with tiny white mushrooms,
was it preparing for death?
And when lady laetipous sulphureus
opened her fan
of yellow and orange lace
at the center of the tree,
did it know
what it suffered from?
Did it feel the sickness
in its waxy leaves,
its pastel pink petals,
its plundering roots?
Did it know
that we all suffer from
from hollow hearts disease?
Will we ever know our hearts?
Know them the way a tree knows
every groove of the bark on its body.
Or what it feels like to be a home for the birds.
Sweet tree, are you ready to die?
When your tears echo,
they sound a lot like mine.
Mother Sorrow, Father Death
My death has already happened.
I have seen it, on the insides of my insides.
On the outsides: from the side, from above, from in the ground.
A thousand times I have died.
On the inside and the outside, when the un-baby exploded.
Vengeful in its un-creation. Its un-birth. Its inability to live to die.
When I get so sick I can’t eat, or stand, or sleep.
My death occurs in spaces of bodily panic and melting mental fissures.
My beating heart explosive, my breath stolen, like it’s not mine to keep.
And even when I feel lost betwixt moments of gratitude,
I am not alone in this hollow space where time doesn’t exist.
One leg walking with the living. One leg dancing with the dead.
I have seen you there.
I have seen all of you there.
Through the transparent walls that separate the alive, the dead, the dying.
Do not be afraid.
I will meet you where I have always been waiting.
On the insides and the outsides of all of our death’s.
My hands are waiting for your fingertips.
We are all beside ourselves. We are all alone on this earth.
Waiting in a solemn line, ready to join hands in the dark soil of death’s embrace.
Shilo Niziolek is currently a student at Marylhurst University where she is studying Creative Writing and English Literature. She recently had her first short memoir piece published in the Broad River Review. When she isn’t devouring novels she can be found snuggling her two dogs, Pig and Ragnar, or trying to decipher the languages of moss, ferns, and trees.