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What Came First

I pick the skin around my nail.

It occurs to me that I’m killing myself

in a way

my teeth and mind launch an attack on the unsuspecting appendage.

like a cancer, attacking the very body they inhabit

I adjust my teeth to get a better grip.

Once the skin snags it peels easily,

(That happens with most things)

A gentle pain just at the end before the pinprick of blood blooms.

(That doesn’t happen often, usually we don’t get a gentle warning, or even one at all)

Sitting here, biting my finger...

I mean something to myself.

That’s something.

I write it down.

And I’m trying to do something here.

It’s all up here but sometimes…

Sometimes I




Thread snags on my sweater as I stand up.

I don’t curse.

I move onto the fingernail and slouch again in my chair.

Part of who we are exists in our own head,

Most, I’d argue.

The remaining bits exist in others.

Pieces float out of others,

people I've known, admired, alive or dead,

and snag onto me.

They catch,


and settle into place.

Compiling a unique repertoire, ideology writing itself.

I picture a web

as I suck the blood around my finger

Threads branching out,

Clasping a strong hold onto everything I believe in most.

good and not so good

beautiful and no so

Because if it is all beautiful you can’t believe in it

connecting me to the vastness of the craft,

the history of people who have loved beautiful things

And these pieces,

strayed from others and bound in me,

I can’t call them mine,

not really.

But they come with me

as I walk.

And the pieces that have floated from me and bind to others,

well, they walk with the others.

You can remove yourself


from people


life even

But you cannot remove yourself from this web.

You’re in there somewhere,

stretching the thread

And though you may try to escape it,

Someone is roaming about with pieces of you.

And it’s eternal, this web.

It pulls the past with it,

carrying the dead,

admiring the outdated,

the extinct,

the wonderful,

the awful,

the words we’ve written and memorized.

It blooms out and out, gathering more minds and curiosities as it rushes through time and space.

The only thing it cannot hold is the lost and forgotten.

And that is very, very sad.

Because the fear is for what is still to be lost.

The blood from my finger drips into the nailbed.

I get up again to find a band aid in the cabinet under the sink.

My sweater snags again on the wicker chair.

I don’t subscribe to “soul” and “aura” and “fate”

But I do wish hippocampus wasn’t such a ridiculous word.

Did you know the cells in the hippocampus die every twenty to thirty years?

and I sit here

murdering the poor guys around my thumb nail

like they’re not a piece of me too.

I want to know about the memories from forty and fifty years ago.

What of those?

The cells that stored them are gone.

But still, somehow, we remember what they held.

That means,

at some point a memory must become a memory of a memory.

at one point the skin cell and the brain cell looked the same.

All those years ago,

when each threw up a hand,

bid to the other fare-thee-well,

and stepped onto their diverging paths towards specialization,

Did the skin cell know it would be disposable?

Did the brain cell know it wouldn't be missed?

And in a couple of days the skin around my nail will look like it was never bitten.

I said this already but:

Part of who we are exists in our own head,

Most, I’d argue.

The remaining bits exist in others.

But now I’m not sure there’s a difference.

Here’s what I want to know:

What came first,


or the vacancy in the web I have come to fill?

- Piper Bell, First Time Contributor


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