‘Guided Meditation’ by Kristen Steenbeeke​​

Philippe Pamela Dungao

Consider your body (when you’re ready); render it a mountain.

“when you’re ready.” Four words, in italics, held together by a bracket, when you’re ready. The plainest, quietest expression of tenderness. A request that requires so little, an expectation that insists on the second person, you. It is an unassuming tone that sets up the rest of Kristen Steenbeeke’s poem, ‘Guided Meditation,’ only to unravel itself from the inside out. A bottling in until it explodes out too, silently. The calm, then the storm.

Letting go here, too.

(but three flies could consume a horse cadaver as rapidly as a lion could, remember?)

(at any moment you might get the disease that makes you believe you are dead)

(every cell in your body is aching now and always)

Meditation, I have found, requires so much of the “I” that is often excused, avoided, or forgotten. It continues to be an uncomfortable space to claim fully when the “I”—the first person—is never privileged; or simply, put first. ‘Guided Meditation’ plays on this conflict that brackets a secondary voice, in italics. It feels ironic. Maybe, playful. A little jabbing. A touch taunting. How the want to let go, to render your body a mountain, to consider your thoughts as a stream even it is frozen over, is pulled back from every cell’s ache. Like growing is supposed to be painful. Like we’re always fighting for this autonomy even amongst our own selves.