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IthacaLit   Literary Magazine: Lit with Art © 2011

All individual works copyrighted by their authors. All rights reserved.

First Credit IthacaLit. ISSN: 2372-4404

Sarah HILTON, Spring 2019

Campus Sceleratus: The Body


Held fast in limbo like a ship, anchored – fastened

To the median between sailing and sinking, where breath

Is a sea bird caught in the netting of the mast. Maybe


The anchor. The answer to breathing is simple. It’s not as easy

As they suggest, to breathe a slow seething burn, a cigarette

Between the lips to bring you down, pull you up,


Out. It’s not like that. Breath is thick like cud

In your throat, until they raise their hands for prayer, your face

Between their palms. You are the prayer, whisperings


From your mother, your father. Even breathing deserves

A blessing. They press their fingers to your supple temple,

Your cheek, and their hands are a grounding point –


Your toes are on the ground, your body wrapped in theirs.

And when your faces meet, hymn before hymn, you’re fed

The air that has always filled you – lungs expand

To bursting, rising up in the shape of mushroom clouds,

An awakening – your rib cage is a cemetery, though everything

Inside you is already buried, muted. Sometimes,

It will feel that way. Words from your mother, or father –

Water. Vestal Virgins recite these same hymns, carve them

Along the interior of their coffins as they’re sunken down

Below. You’re afraid to ask the difference between drowning

And deflating. Filling and emptying. A slow crawl from

The pit of a sinkhole, sometimes slipping past the point

Of burial. We take the earth that gives and gives, a womb

Overturned, and we pull out its pelvic floor. A false bottom

That makes us wonder if the mantle has already gone

Dormant. We are taught to be guided. Carried until we crawl, held

Up by the fingers of our sires. Walk. Run. We are not

Consulted upon release. And what comes next is the plummet.

Ground yourself. They hold your hands, hoist you upright, but never

Wait to see you take off, onwards. Another hymn, next time,

You’ll just snap out of it.

Sarah Hilton is a poet and student of English at the University of Toronto. Her work has been recognized in Notes From the Come Up (Sick City Press), The Women's Issue, The Underground, and at Tarragon Theatre. She is a current reader for The Masters Review, and she teaches creative writing to children in Scarborough.