A Woman of Substance

The way her veins snake through her body, the elaborate labyrinth
Of her circulatory system, or the steady pulse of her indecisive
Heart; the way her neurons fire off into the ether, her inconsistent
Hormones, and the way the moon strings her along to bleed like a ceremonial
Sacrifice – these are the miracles that keep her believing she is more than a regret
In her parents’ eyes, that make her think that she is made of a stronger substance,

Of something sturdier. Too often, she knows, she relies on substances
To feel substantial, and too often has she found herself lost in a labyrinth
Of tangled bedsheets, her mind clouded with the haze of alcohol and regret.
She’s asked herself, what do you want?, but she remains unanswering and indecisive,
A child too old to be called a child. She’s tried so hard to pass all the ceremonial
Milestones into adulthood; she enrolled in college, but her grades were inconsistent,

And her parents lost patience paying tuition for her continued inconsistency.
Of course they loved her, they insisted, but she needed to make something of substance
Of herself. She thought of her mother and father’s wedding, of the ceremonial
Signifigance, the possibilities, and wondered if anywhere in the entwined labyrinth
Of their thoughts they ever considered her; if they would have been more indecisive
Had they know she would be the product of their union, their one enduring regret.

Her last night in her dorm, she lies awake, wondering if, like physical pain, regret
Will stop aching, become numb through its normalcy. But tonight, her heart, so inconsistent,
Beats slow and steady in her chest, and she breathes deeply, still indecisive
About whether to laugh or cry at her situation. This was the substance
Of her most frequent nightmares; trapped at the dizzying center of a labyrinth,
Every turn a dead end, and in the back of her head, a ominous thud of a ceremonial

Drum, pushing her deeper and deeper into madness. She’d awake in a sweat, the ceremonial
Beating still echoing in her head, but tonight her mind is empty, and she’s quieted her regret.
In the dark, she allows her fingers to trace the gully between her breasts, the labyrinth
Of her outer ear, each tiny, imperfect ridge. She thinks, if there is a God, then He was an inconsistent
Artist; but nonetheless, she is entranced with the feel of her skin, her hair, the pure substance
Of her being. She asks herself again, what do you want? What is this nagging indecision,

What is this fear? She pushes back the sheets, focuses on the feeling of the indecisive
Mid-May air on her skin, and steps lightly to the window. Outside, the quad is alight with ceremonial
Lights strung to celebrate upcoming graduation. She thinks of what her parents said: substance,
You need to be a woman of substance. But wasn’t she? Wasn’t she more than the sum of her regrets?
She traced the hollows of her collarbone, the rise and fall of her chest with each ragged, inconsistent
Breath, the burn of tears as they the crisscrossed her cheeks in a glistening labyrinth.

These are ceremonial things, she thinks: school, work, regret; things we do because we are
Expected do. I am a labyrinth of nerves and blood and bone, the substance of the earth and stars,
inconsistent and indecisive, but tonight – I am whole, and here, and heart-breakingly human.