Allostasis

Sam Vernon, Three Seers, 2012

Sam Vernon, Three Seers, 2012

I.
I stand at the graveside of an aunt and find myself crying. She has died of breast cancer. When I last saw her, she told me that she would be traveling to the city soon for a visit.

II.
Grief is not something that comes to an end. It is absorbed, ever-present. It folds in on itself again and again.

III.
I stand at the graveside of an aunt and find myself crying. She has died of liver cancer. When I last spoke with her, she told me she loved me.

IV.
I ask my doctor if I should worry about my body betraying me. Is this cancer moving through my bloodline, I ask. I fear I have inherited a mutation.

V.
I stand at the graveside of an aunt and find myself crying. She has died of lung cancer. When I last saw her, she asked if I would take a photo of her.

VI.
So, there is Neecie and Bell and Ellen. There is also Kathleen and Audre and Toni. And I am of them all, am I not?

VII.
I am trying to trace the origins of our weathering. The scientific term is allostatic load — a wear and tear due to stress. My doctor tells me that Black women’s loads are heavier than most.

VIII.
There is a photo that won’t let me sleep. In it, three trees are adorned with paper, cloaked in an ethereal mass. They are holy spirits who see what I cannot, what may be coming for me.

IX.
I keep my aunts’ obituaries in plain view in my room. What happens when fractures repeat within a line? I am not prepared to hold all that has passed to me.

X.
Our membranes have formed their own lineages. Look at what has pierced them. Look at how this cancer rests so easily inside of us.

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