Instructions for Preparing Your Skin by Ariana Nadia Nash
Winner of the 2011 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. "Ariana Nadia Nash's INSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARING YOUR SKIN is an exquisitely passionate first book. Mostly I am struck by the lyrical frankness of the poems, and how they sustain an uncanny purity and yet are totally down to earth."—Malena Mörling
Instructions for Preparing Your Skin is a startling book in which so much is at stake. Love poems morph into hate poems into indifference poems then back again into deeper love poems. Nash's stark raw material is transformed into verse as honest and clear as the mirrors in which we recognize ourselves. There is no way to prepare for these striking poems that strike against any temporary assuredness we may have about our bodies and each other.Instructions for Preparing Your Skin is candid, revelatory, and uncompromising in its vision. -- Denise Duhamel, judge, 2011 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry
To Hold the Body in My Hand
I peel back my skin and scoop
the origins out of myself
like embryonic papaya seeds
from the center of the fruit.
No different than
the condensation of sky
into rain, the moss-crept
stone house, the compost --
bodies everywhere exposed
to their own being.
The same rainbow-gray
of fish-scales, the shriveled
density of cloves -- I am inside
out and desiccating, everywhere
expanding with scent.
This the carious flesh, I say,
this the progenitive seed.
After Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror
I am reflected misshapen, dis-
membered. I can't see myself
for a yellow-white,
can't see I'm the sun
lighting the profile of the moon,
cratered and glowing.
I think I am turning into green string.
Self-Portrait as Bunraku
My puppeteers, they move me well.
One part of me trained
for thirty years so she could
control my right arm and head --
be my omozukai (read:
oh myself, I). She
is the part of me which is grace
and knows thoughtfulness
comes to my heart when she takes
my hand to my chin. Another part
spent twenty years, and so grasped my left arm.
She is called sashizukai
(read: she is I) and is the one who feels
an arm gesticulating means I'll empathize.
A third part of me, she started late,
an apprentice and so
controls only my feet.
Her name is ashizukai (read, I
seize I) because she still has to learn
even when soles abandon the ground
the body still holds
its shape. They each
control my limbs but wear black veils
so only this puppet is seen.
The final part of me became my voice,
my tayu (read: for you) who chanted
by the shamisen's quivering notes. She
tells my story and is the only one
who sits exposed,
and gives words their rough ululation.