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Patricia Clark

The Only Body

The winter-killed grass is coming back green,
and I lie down in it, on the slope
near the Middlebrook Pike Baptist Church
where someone has planted tulips
in the shape of a large cross and erected
a white sign that says "Jesus Saves."
I come here as a believer in the only
body I can know—my own—and worship

the sun's touch. That's why I walk here
weekdays when the pastor's out, the congregation's
dispersed to their jobs and daily lives.
To me, even the parking lot's holy—
the asphalt radiating a steady heat
I've come to trust. I never tell anyone
about the times I could leap, with joy,
right out of my body. They'd get it

wrong, I think. Wasn't it Whitman
who said that the way to "divine
afflatus" lies not in denial of the physical,
but through it? That's when it happens
to me—in sunlight, or in rain, heading
down a road somewhere, heedlessly,
breathing in whatever flowers in early spring—
redbuds, dogwoods, the anomalous

crab-apples. I don't leave my body
behind, and don't desire to. Instead,
it's as though every pore opens to drink in
sensation, the body like a sponge,
and it's almost painful—one could get
singed or blinded by the sudden light.
It doesn't last, of course. I know someday
I'm going to die. Somehow that doesn't

matter much when I'm on the move,
and the fields wave their grasses freshened
by rain. To live deliberately and lightly,
denying nothing, is what I'd like, the way
horses feeding in the pasture across the pike
step carefully in their huge, slow bodies.
Flies harass them, landing on their ruddy
flanks. Again, again, they flick them off.

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