The Body as Chorus, the Chorus as One


Brett Shaw


Director sticks two fingers in my mouth.

Says, the teeth should be a cherry’s width

apart. The mouth’s perilous O from which


the body grows, secondary & vestigial.

The body like water around a thrashing

fin. A mouth growing more exposed without air.

Told not to fish for notes, I’m red. Redacted.


A filament fused. Director says,

the hips should draw down. The spine stairways,

a column of clouds. My head, lifted on


a string. Learning how the body accepts

placement: pulled, plucked. Choral lines rigid

as hallway busts. Stuffed—our skin arranged

for display—a special kind of silence


for the rictus that offers only

what another’s hand portrays. I learned

to exhale without fogging the glass


placed in front of my face—crystalline

in control. My voice a kettle of hawks,

circling what twitched below. This game I played

with eyes closed felt like hunting, the way


hunting feels like wanting to be caught.

A cycle that frays closer & closer,

violence at its end. Each little adjustment


made. Like a beak combed through feathers, like

a beak combed through bone. Detail makes effort

unseen—a perfect seam. Empty remains

a wing shrouds over—brutal cavern…


& what is my mouth once its smile only spreads

on request? Feathers pressed into background

measure. A song emerges from this frieze.


Is it sweet,

is it piercing in its cry?