Maya Jewell Zeller
In Art Therapy, They Have Us Sketch Legs
Of course the human body is a beautiful thing,
strung as it is in these layers of sinewy muscle.
It is easy, too, to love their names, especially
those that run below the knees: peroneus
longus, tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, calcaneal
tendon. I whisper them to myself as I draw
everything close to the feet, rubbing my pencil
on the paper in waves to make shadow, show
contour. See how she raises up on her toes now,
the flesh contracts, the shape between the legs
suggests a vase, I want to fill it with flowers.
I want to hold each calf in my hand, study
my favorite muscle. I put it on the page, instead:
soleus, Latin for sole fish. Dogs don’t
have them. In horses, they’re unused.
Which means they are somewhat particular
to homo sapiens. Soleus. Without it, we couldn’t
walk, run, or dance. I’ve never gotten used to
how vertical I have to be all day, how limited
the angles are of the land-bound beings.
So it’s a comfort that we might all have a fish
in our calves. I’d like to swim and let the fish
of my legs swim. I’d like to find out how to kick,
what kind of fin flip I would need. Will I ever
acclimate to walking? Will I always, standing
nude in front of the mirror, tremble in fear
at my own flesh, how it goes on and on,
pink and unscaled, from my head to my feet?
Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of the books Rust Fish and Yesterday, the Bees. She lives in Spokane, Washington, in the U.S. She teaches writing for several colleges, serves as Fiction Editor for Crab Creek Review, and co-directs the Beacon Hill Reading Series. Maya also has two small children.