A Body Shaped by Life

This has been a week of poetry. Shouldn’t life’s storms always be followed by art?

Earlier this week, my friend Jess sent me a poem which she wrote about me. I love it so much that I can’t express my feelings except to say this: as long as she’s in my life, I will be fine. (Or, as she would say: “Fuck fine. You’re gonna be GREAT!”) Being understood this deeply by another person makes you believe everything is possible.

Jess created this in response to a prompt she gave students in the class she teaches:

“Write a poem about a body that has been shaped by the life it lives.”

Capable calves.
Of dancing, leaping, hiking.

Short nails for ridding of dirt and food she’s plunged her hands into.

Arms with freckles on the shoulders from worshiping sunny days.

Feet. Oh the feet.
Small toes and strong arches covered in various stages of callous from her delight in barefootedness, in feeling grass, dirt, and floor echoing her movement.

A belly that she boldly calls a belly.
Kinetic energy waiting to quiver with laughter constantly.
Occasionally undulating in roundness as she runs marathons or eats delectable pastries the world over.
But always touched with intentional love by both her and her lovers.

Her hips… but what I mean is her ass.
I’ve mailed her a bumper sticker that says, “The Booty Don’t Stop,” an ode to the power of her backside.
It gives her hips punctuation as she twists and flows – not only dancing, but just walking.

I’ve spent countless hours reading her body just as much as her words,
With half of her self running alongside her voice like a current in her skin.

She has been shaped by this current like a tree by the coastal winds.

And like a thunderstorm or a bird in flight, I sit in awe of the power embodied.


Let’s all pause for a minute, and give *snaps*. My Jess is an artist.

The same day, I saw something on my drive home that made me have to write, too. (Raleigh has gifted me more astonishing sidewalk visions than any city I’ve known. That’s saying something, because the street scenes in Mexico and Italy border on magical!) So, here goes:


She glides down the sidewalk.
Her grace draws me in – then I notice those ass-kicker boots.
She’s in black from her head to her leather-clad toes, and
Dark hair, pale skin, proclaim a monochrome identity.

If life were the simple colors of her presence,
I’d stop at the word “Goth.”
Instead – because life is endless, swirling color –
I look again, and see the splash of purple.

This rebel daughter, backpack heavy, stride sure,
Has stopped to pluck wisteria on the walk home from school.
Now the essence of spring in the south pours from her wintry hand.

When I dwell on serious girls in love with illicit flowers,
When I wonder what other desires curl beneath her raven hair,
I think of you.

Life growing from death; brilliant blooms on a strangling vine –
Your heart would understand why I cannot let this image


35 responses to “A Body Shaped by Life

  1. Oh my gosh. I can’t even tell how wonderful the poem is. It’s just a perfect blend of pure honesty with a touch of magical whimsy. Absolutely lovely! I could easily see you dancing amongst the sentences, Jennie! ^_^

    • TJ, she’s always been my inspiration. She mixes beauty, truth, and quirkiness with a deft hand. By the way, thank you for the image of a woman dancing between lines of poetry… hey, I like that so much, I’m wondering whether we could talk about you creating a commissioned piece of art along those lines?

      • Lovely Jennie, I thought I already replied to you, but it slipped my mind. Apologies!

        Aww I’m so glad you liked that image. Sometimes I’m not sure whether people get what I see when I read things, but that doesn’t stop me from sharing it haha. We can most definitely check if I can create something for you! You can always e-mail me whenever you want to have more information!

        Have a fabulous weekend!

  2. We were just talking about body image at work yesterday. A colleague shared that her second grade daughter was already adopting a negative image of herself based on the number recorded on a scale! This poem is a celebration and certainly an inspiration for me to write (once again) a piece on this very subject. Thanks for sharing Jennie. Good to hear from you! 🙂

    • That makes me so, so sad. It’s obscene that kids that young should have any thoughts about their bodies except vague excitement about all the things they do! Why did she get weighed, anyway – a doctor’s appointment?

      In any case, I can’t wait to see what you publish next. And thanks – it’s really good to be spinning word-webs again.

  3. Tactile eyes trace the intimacy of letters placed upon your lovers skin.

    I really really enjoyed those poems. Thanks for sharing your obvious pleasure.

    • Well, hell! I can fulfill that wish! Jess’ mom recently turned 60, and the birthday party theme was actually writing limericks in honor of her Irish heritage. She has a “thing” for Abe Lincoln, so we came up with some beauties, including:

      He was shackled to old Mary Todd
      Who never could handle his rod.
      He led this fine nation
      Towards emancipation
      (Of people, but also his bod).

      I’ll come up with one for you soon! Careful what you wish for…

      • Fantastic! Here’s the limerick I wrote last year for Easter:

        Hung on a cross by decree,
        Romans pounded the nails in with glee.
        Well, that really sucks.
        I loaned him five bucks!
        First resurrect, then repay me.

        • Oh, myyyyyyyy. With inflation, I guess that would be a lot these days.

          OK, Marky Mark, here’s one just for you:

          Exiled to the Street of Pain,
          He’s rather upbeat in the main.
          He has a cute dog,
          and MAN can he blog!
          …though his thoughts do go against the grain.

  4. oh my poetry! Your friend is crazy talented — “it gives her hips punctuation” ughh so good. And you, Jennie, as always paint the most vivid of pictures with your words. I so enjoyed these, thank you for sharing!

  5. I *adore* the vivid imagery of this line: “Kinetic energy waiting to quiver with laughter.”

    Snaps to Jess indeed.

    And I love the last two lines of your poem. Such power and meaning in the structure.


  6. I don’t think I’ve ever read a poem with that much imagery. Jess is da bomb! What an honor to have such an inspiring, beautiful poem written about you.
    Your poem was just as poignant and evocative. Absolutely stellar. I feel like I just drank a glass of wine. This poetry actually took me somewhere. I LOVE THAT.

    • She’s a word weaver. Except way more awesome and dynamic, so how about this: she’s a disco ball of words, reflecting them back in prismatic rainbows at the people dancing around her? Yeah… that’ll do for a Jess metaphor.

      Also, I just realized that being compared to alcohol is the most giddiness-inducing compliment you could give me. I just yelled at Jarrett, “People get drunk off of ME!” So thanks for boosting my ego. 🙂

  7. Wow. Just wow to both as each one was exquisite in it’s own right. I loved her line about the bumper sticker! And I loved the colors and the last two lines were breathtaking!

    • I have carried that sticker with me through two moves! I can’t put it on my car my now – I’m a professional adult, apparently – but I’m holding onto it for a day when I can. 🙂

    • …she said, not knowing her words would cause Jennie to sit gaping at the screen for a full 20 seconds.

      I have a sort of mini-journal, where every night I write a few sentences to mark the day. Sometimes it’s what I did, sometimes it’s a quote. Tonight, it’s this.

      • When you’re super famous, I can say “She wrote about me in her journal.”

        Conversely, when I’m super famous, you can say “Hannah said this about me.”

        Either way, we both win. And I meant it!

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