Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 12 • Winter 2004 • Poetry

Anatomy Lesson: Cells
The First Love Poem

Elijah Oberman

Once, they didn't need us.
They were whole beings
floating in endless water,
cilia and flagella like our arms and legs,
pulling them through the wet gray.
Each cell an individual,
moving and consuming and making
love to itself till it
split apart, reproduced, became more.

Then came the skin,
this imperial sack that
gathered whole worlds into itself
so that it could enclose and own,
so that water could walk the earth
and conquer it.

This is why we fuck,
why we press as close as we can,
trying to throw off the boundaries between us
because the nation of the body
is as false as any other,
and the maintaining of any border
requires violence. The skin
patrols this border with the
violence of separation,
pretending we are each
only one thing, and opposed.
So we do what anyone would do and
try to cross it.

How can we ask each other
to be only one thing
when none of us can count
all the lives,
all the worlds inside us.
But skin lets me feel it
when you touch me. Bruise me and
the mark reminds me you were here,
so that if I ever ask you
for that oneness, that singularity,
hit me hard, and
I'll remember.

Elijah Oberman is transgender and Jewish from Charlottesville, Virginia. He currently lives in Brooklyn, plays violin with the syndicate, and works with Jews Against the Occupation.

Go To: Issue 12 or Lodestar Quarterly home page