The Walrus

My Body in Three Movements

- By Tess Liem


I read we can understand Shakespear­e’s use of the word nothing as a reference to zero where zero means a vulva, at least in his sonnets. I thought how nice: one of my body parts, in being nothing, is something. This something enough to know I want to drop Shakespear­e, stop writing & learn how to do something useful with my hands.

I thought it out, decided to become an electricia­n & my friend told me

I would make beautiful light art: neon sculptures shaped like no thing in particular. Or, my body all wired, lit & moving.

But, no, it’s not my part to move nothing.


I’ll start a queer constructi­on company to advocate for our rights & I won’t wish for much else. A lie. I’ll try reading again, I’ll try writing in the evenings when I am tired from wiring light.

& I’ll try not to romanticiz­e this literal electricit­y. But I’ll probably fail. Because, well, honestly,

I am trying to figure out a way to want to be in the world. & you know I expect to be told not to put words like honestly in my poems, not to start with that shit. So I won’t start with it. I won’t end with it honestly either.


I thought about it & the nothing was not my body. It was not my body: a tight fourteen lines. It could not be mine. & it would not be my body drunk with neon lights either. It’s easier if I understand it is not my body in particular. Easier if I accept accepted criticism, if

I admit nothing ever happened to any part of my body, if I lie, if I have nothing to lose. Easy if

I’m an absence named nothing.

I write

0 to describe grief & to me it means

I had more than a pen to begin with.

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