“Offering” by Asa West

Asa West


It was time to study my sleep
because I always woke in pain, exhausted,
headachy and hungover and the doctor said
a hangover after a sober night? That’s no good!
So I put sensors on my chest, my hand,
a thing in my nose like you see in hospital movies
and it turns out it’s called a cannula,
and I looked at myself decked out in the mirror and thought,
this is what it means to take care of yourself,
to care for your body, to be an adult.
I used to take dance classes where I avoided looking
at myself in the mirror. I hated so much
the thunk of my weight after a clumsy leap,
the way I teetered in relevé.
I still dance when I’m alone, fake ballet moves,
or maybe real ones that I just never learned in class,
and I can’t figure out if I want
the neighbors to see me or not.
The poppy stem, I’ve noticed, hunches and swoops
and looks perfect even when it looks funny
and I can’t figure out how to pull off that look myself,
how to achieve that wholeness, that grace.
In the night I woke up a million times, the sensors
tangled around me. In the morning
the cannula left red marks on my face.
Actors pretending to wake from comas
should dust red lines on their cheeks
for realism, I think, but who ever listens to me?
I slide the kit into the drop-off bin
like a votive offering at a shrine:
make me better, solve my problem,
make me good like the poppy, O sleep sensor kit,
fix my poor body with its hunches, its swoops.

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022
Tribute to Librarians


Asa West: “In March, we received word at my job that children’s librarians were being classified as childcare workers in order to get us Covid vaccines. I spent days refreshing the Los Angeles County vaccine website, looking for openings at Mega-PODS and clinics, but librarians weren’t given the special codes that schoolteachers were, so I couldn’t find anything. Then I saw that Kaiser Permanente had changed its language from ‘teachers with codes only’ to ‘teachers with codes prioritized,’ and, heart pounding, I snapped up an appointment. I felt like a fraud and I was sure I’d be turned away until the moment the needle went in my arm. In my nine years as a librarian, I’ve found the library world to be a site of many such scenes of poetic surreality and quiet drama.” (web)

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