Anatomic Radiation, by Maggie Woodruff

In the will I left

I named you as the beneficiary of

my spiral-bound spine,

heir to the words

that stacked my structure

please excuse the scoliosis.

Written into my phalanges

are all the times I held on

and at the end of my humerus

you can find the run-un laughs with their relative clauses that chased themselves around my pelvis and made me lose my


Mandible – etched with conversations I planned to have,

Zygomatic – pinched when the words would not stop flowing

Femur – strongest bone in my body, still stretching with curiosity.

At times I didn’t know

my own bones were broken

until they started to set wrong

so I broke again and waited…


Sticks and stones will break my bones but words…

No, don’t accept that bullshit

growing pains came with abandon

ache after ache

how heavy it was to be grounded –

I did not always have

good posture.

I’ve seen phrases like suicide bombers,

no trace of them left after massacring others,

slurs – repurposed shrapnel.

What was left, they entitled

the canon.

There were heaps of notebooks piled high like dead bodies,

try to picture:

words shattered, stress fractures,

punctured holes in lungs, speech killed by friendly fire.

Truth is…

they shot a little girl in the head

because she dared

to write her own back bone.

My neighbor came home with a cane –

he has a stump where he used to scrawl his strength.

He says:

torn out pages

are the worst phantom limbs.

What are wars for but

hollowing your chest cavity,

burn victims are opportunities

to graft on their words

in a color more appealing.

Beware the virus known as silence,

cancer eating away at anthems carefully crafted,

politicians spewing brittle paragraphs

to long lines at clinics

sold as cancer treatments.

Sticks and stones will break my bones and words…

words will build me.

Here, have some poetry,

cauterize your wounds.

This clavicle is a script of bearing and hope.

These metatarsals measured meter in haikus –

I was proud to stand for something.

Please, leaf through my ribs, thumb over my vertebrae.

Careful when you dog-ear my scapula; it tickles.

This is your estate.

Recognize the rigor of my cranium,

the strength of marrow stanzas,

Read cerebrospinal fluid sonnets,

celebrate cracked patellas.

Honor your inheritance –

write your own calcium and neurons.

When the beeps beat out the last of my syllables,

take comfort.

When you bury me, you are planting new calligraphy.

I am just leaving my marks in the dirt.

-Maggie Woodruff

Featured in Vol. 3 Iss. 3
Featured in Vol. 3 Iss. 3