published Nov. 11, 2018

by Chi Kyu Lee

In thirty-three, the spine pleads to its owner to be compassionate and to realize s/he is nothing without it. I explored the literal and the figurative concept of whatever the opposite of “straightness” is. In other words, I attempted to interweave my scoliosis with my queerness. While I was composing the poem, the image of a curved spine reminded me of a serpent that we not only see in the Bible, but also in the symbol of medicine, which turns out be inspired from Asklepios’ staff. The harmony between the serpent and the straight staff on which it rests interested me—their very difference is what holds them together. The poem is also about insecurities regarding our physical bodies, especially when it is obvious but not obvious enough for people to sympathize with, like scoliosis. However, it is not an attack against the condition, bur an attempt to better understand my relationship with it (and its relationship with other identities within me) by wearing the voice of my spine.


i beg you,
please, don't

tell me i’m a
worthless spine

or that i look like thirty-three

Reese’s Cups stacked on top of each

other commissioned by a seven-year-old,

who runs to the kitchen where his busy mother has to listen

to her son’s tower of Babylon.

i already have Evolution

telling me that i’m a failure & Creation

has yet to respond since i abandoned

the corset commissioned

for normality, for straightness.

it gets better worse

Straightness requires
metal bars rising from

the flesh
& until i am

accepted you will continue

to let weakness delight in you.

but please don’t think
you aren’t straight because

i follow the movements of serpents around me.

i am still
the staff of Asklepios

so lean on my
body, which is

made of solids, of concrete phenomena

unlike you & your weakness

& you complete me. you are my

serpent. i am

thirty-three years old & there are

nails in

disc of mine & so don’t abandon

your messiah. you & i, like friends.

two in one, like two spines

we perfectly intrude into the

emptiness in each other, carved out

by serpents, swimming away from Straightness.

& the boy’s Babylon loves

its curving roads, leading him

to the thirty-third floor, but no higher.

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