“Over Everything” Corporeal Clamor
She rolls over. Summery skin soft and dark against the curved line of shirt sliding beneath sheets. Before morning pulls me under lushdelicious, I push my mouth against her shoulder, wrap an arm and drape a leg.
“Morning,” she mumbles. Her skin shimmers warm in the morning light.
“You glow,” I sigh, and go under.
When I open my eyes who knows how long later, the dog has weaseled his way onto the bed, curled between us. At the low rumble of thunder, he gives a convulsive quiver and tucks his nose beneath his back leg. I scratch his ears and Kabob untucks and gives me a grateful look. Before he tucks back in, I notice a bright smudge, glowing on the bridge of his nose. I rub my eyes and lean forward, spreading the thin fur on his snout with my fingers, like I’m looking for ticks. Where the fur separates, the glow follows.
“Test Tank” Corporeal Clamor
“Breathe,” you whisper. Holding me.
The first breath is convulsive, just a reflex, and when it comes, it’s flour and molasses in Granny’s porcelain bowl, stirring. I clutch and reach.
“Breathe,” you insist, and remove your mask, to show me how.
The second breath is my own, the sound of rainwater in a drainpipe. I raise myself against your arm and lean, and when you reach under my ribs and pull me up against your chest, brine pours from my mouth. I heave, coughing and spitting, but the taste is not bitter. I want it back.
“You say, write something hopeful” Corporeal Clamor
Excerpt: Something that makes people feel as hopeful and beautiful as this moment is, and even though that seems like an impossible thing to do, although it actually seems like the very worst thing to do, I say OK, I’ll try, because at this moment the sun has just done a kind of magic trick on the water, everything shimmering layers of gold and blue, and then I wonder how many times people have used the word shimmering to describe sunlight on water, and I stop.
Later, I say. I make a mental note that once we have walked back along the pebbled road, away from the darkening cliffs and spiked green shrubs, past the farmer who herds the goats to their night pasture, bronze bells clanging around their necks as they shuffle and call, once we have stacked the dishes and shuttered the windows and poured two glasses of water for bed, I will make a list of hopeful things, just to remind myself.
“The starlings are back. For each of the past three years, they have returned to gather a chaotic pile of damp grass, peeled bark, and matted bits of twine, threads still unraveling even as they are tucked away. One day a silky puff of cream-colored fur appears, the next, a waxy red leaf. I marvel at their ability to make do with such a seemingly uninhabitable place, an old crook of drainpipe beneath the roof of my apartment building, but this is what starlings do. I watch them, thinking of home.
Twenty-nine places in twenty-seven years. Never allowing myself to need anywhere or anything or anyone long enough to stay.
I think this is not true.
(Maybe it is partly true.)
The starling was introduced to North America in 1890 by the “American Acclimatization Society” as part of a plan to introduce all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. From 1890-1891, somewhere between 60-100 starlings were released into Central Park in New York. The entire North American population, which now numbers more than 200 million starlings, is descended from those birds…”
“You Can Do Anything,” essay and featured column, Corporeal Clamor.
I was invited to write a featured column on bestselling author Lidia Yuknavitch’s site, Corporeal Writing. “You Can Do Anything” is my first piece, and you can find my column, Secret Circus, on the second Friday of each month. At a time when government secrets can be revealed in 140 characters and our nation loves a show, Secret Circus blends personal essay with political commentary.
“Lowercase v-a-g-i. Capital N. Lowercase a.
“Can she read?” The policeman asks.
He asks it like I can’t hear, like I’m not right there, sitting on my father’s lap. I want to tell the policeman that there is no time in my memory when I could not read, that there was never a time when I couldn’t put the letters together and throw myself into any world offered to me and disappear, but I stay quiet.
“Yes, she can read,” my father answers.
The policeman slides the report across the kitchen table and hands me a pen…”
“Still Gonna Do (#ShePersisted),” The Manifest-Station.
“White House staff visited our programs and invited us to Washington. When it came time for the final interview that we hoped would lead to funding, I spouted literacy and poverty statistics while stressing the need for the separation of church and state. I emphasized the importance of program quality, replicability and scale. After two hours of questioning, they began to wrap things up.
“One last question,” said the man from the White House. “Is there anything about you that could be potentially embarrassing to the President?”
I squinched my eyebrows. Refocused my attention on the American flag waving at me from his lapel. “Other than being a lesbian Democrat running a faith-based initiative for the Bush White House, I can’t think of anything…”
The Right to Bare Arms, ENTROPY Magazine.
“Who cares what anyone thinks?” Amy opened her locker and pulled out the registration form. “I’m telling you, it will look good on a college application.”
“It will look ridiculous. It’s for bimbos. A total waste of time.”
We were feeling fresh from a trip to Albany to defend a piece of mock legislation we’d drafted ourselves, something that would make it illegal to put children with physical or mental impairments in nursing homes without providing therapeutic support, an issue we were preternaturally passionate about at sixteen – and it passed. Five years later it would become part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but who knows, maybe we thought of it first, we were feeling that full of ourselves.
Maybe too full. Good schools didn’t care about public school girls from dinky little Snowbelt towns.
We had to work harder. We had to get out.
About Leigh Hopkins
Leigh Hopkins is a writer, speaker, and educator. In 2010, she left a career in social policy and education reform to move to Brazil. There, she launched a retreat center and founded Viva Institute by rigging a satellite dish to a boulder in a banana field.
You can read Leigh’s monthly column, “Secret Circus,” on bestselling-author Lidia Yuknavitch’s site, Corporeal Writing. Her essays have been published in Elephant Journal, ENTROPY Magazine, The Manifest-Station, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Viva Institute, and at LeighHereNow. Leigh lives in Philadelphia with her wife, a painter, and their jittery Jack Russell Terrier.