By: Jocelyn Mosman

Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts

You are every stretch of tendon
wrist flexed, then relaxed
the curvature of hand,
steady and bent.

You are brain stem activity,
words and pain both flowing
down your spinal cord
until it is too hard to write.

You are mouth and throat,
soft spoken and fragile,
swallowing blood,
choking back heart.

You rely on the body:
hand to write,
spine to stand,
mouth to speak.

As you collapse inward
like a burning house,
all I can do is hold sound
the walls,

resist the destruction,
or flee.

I will not leave.
I will not watch you burn.

I will guide your hand
until words flow past
unspeakable pain
onto open page.

I will stand tall beside you,
become sturdy
lumbar vertebrae,
help you climb and stretch.

I will give your voice legacy
as student, as friend,
next generation of oral tradition
passed hand-to-hand like communion,

But when the house smolders,
the skeleton screams,
the joints crack.
I smell smoke.

As body relies on body,
I rely on you.

I will not leave.
I will not watch you burn.