Kami Westhoff

Say Something, Say Nothing


Start where you meet the earth. Stomp the soil to show you are still here. Drag both feet because you fear the forever between lift and lower. A doctor draws a tornado with the tip of a pen on the sole of your foot and there’s nothing funny about you not laughing. It is difficult to navigate the world when you cannot tell where it touches you. Reflexologists claim the foot is the foundation of the body’s health. Trauma to the toes, three of which you’ve broken, clouds the eye, oceans the ears, quakes the brain until even the faces built and born from your body are more footprint than foot, leaves shivered from the tree not the root beneath it.


Veins make illegible maps of your calves and thighs. Their routes quiver and curve—the path unpredictable. Your legs are, more than anything, like bloated logs that ache for the split.  One takes two to lift. Without them, you might weigh what you ought to, but you haven’t been able to give up what keeps you down. When you sleep, they translate sheets into knots you never learned. They want you horizontal. They didn’t get a say in what you expected them to carry. Once, their flutter forced you through the water, your body carving the pool’s skin left no scar. Once, they let you kneel. Once, they moved in the direction of whatever it was that asked to be held.


If you had to do it again, you’d probably do it the same. There was so much you had to swallow that you didn’t choose to put in your mouth. So much you couldn’t stop because you couldn’t stomach the suffering. Your gut never said Enough, so you kept offering. And finally, people stopped caring who you couldn’t manage to be. Finally, when people offered, you said, Yes, please.  Now, no one bothers to wonder how you got this way, they just resolve to not let it happen to them. When the nurse lifts the massive slab of your stomach and slathers salve to cool furious skin beneath, you don’t have to bother saying This wasn’t what I meant to be.  


Breath sneaks in when you’re thinking about ghosts. It wants the deep, but what’s lost keeps it throated. From there, even a halo looks like a noose. Your heart barks from its dark cage, unconcerned with the riot it sets it motion. You can’t blame the blood–all it ever wanted was to tunnel veins unnoticed. You know you’re getting worse because your children visit more often. They claim they want you calm, happy, but they want to tell you how they suffered, they say they must before it’s too late. They say How is it that you didn’t know, as they guide your arm out of the hole in your shirt meant for your head.


Speak. Clear the cough from the crotch of your throat and say something that might make a difference to whoever is listening. Say, I’m sorry. Say, I was so young. Say, It wasn’t my fault, even though you’re the only one who ever blamed you for it. You’ve said too much but never about the right things. Say, I looked both ways, when what you meant was, I was afraid to cross. Say, I checked all the locks when what you meant was, He was already inside. Say, I put out the fire, when what you meant was, It’s the smoke that kills. Maybe you were right after all, to cave those words and leave the mouth to its swallowing.


Strokes haze your MRI like distant galaxies. Things will not get better. You’re already orbiting what you once centered. Your children will soon be flecks in your memory like suns of other systems. This is where you stop. Remove your shoes and trust them when those you love say the earth is warm. Slip easy into sleep–they understand the trick of the unknotting. Let them be to blame for what and how much you can stomach. Let the lungs worry the inhale. Leave the heart to its beating. Say something. Say nothing. And while you still know there are too many things to suffer, say, I can’t remember, then lean into the infinite fog of forgetting.