Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“Born Under the Sign Of”

Born Under the Sign Of

You came in under the Vacancy light of my hotel-sign heart,
under the spearhead of my brash and undivided hips.

Now when I wheel down, with the other constellations, to rest,
you give me such a poke and shove, school-bully stuff

you can’t have meant it.
Nor the way you crank up my ribs, a thief getting in a window.

Math can’t account for us, neither one nor two
nor any of the numbers for in-between:

one of us standing, the other lying down,
one making fists, the other typing full sentences

and sometimes we face opposite ways, like opponents in a duel.
When they marqueed you on the sonogram screen,

when they said, as in an indictment, there’s the brain,
heart’s all right, spine lips feet kidneys

I saw you were already packing to leave,
neat valise of your head and chest

filled with the rolled and folded things you’d need.
Still, the hand I lay on you is laid on me,

the kindest hand I’ve had for myself.
Rocking soothes us: a motion made of go and come back.

[This article originally appeared on 5/2/2014.]

Lisa Coffman, who grew up in East Tennessee, has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry. Her first collection of poetry, Likely, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University Press. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee. She teaches at the California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo. “Born Under the Sign Of” is an excerpt from her new collection, Less Obvious Gods.