Alexa Smith

1 poem with audio

Dear River Body Song Instructor

Is a river free 
if the banks are manmade, 
the flow regulated? 

I want so badly to make 
my face a mask of air 
for you, to unhinge 

and lift the roof 
off of my mouth. 
To catapult 

my gut’s bell 
to the back 
of the room. 

It’s all for a point
on the wall at the back 
of the room
, you tell me. 

As far as you can throw it – 
that’s your audience. 
That’s your public. 

My body, without edits, 
cannot reach that far 
without cracking. 

I am in need
of revision. It’s hard 
work to sound natural, 

effortless. A river 
never gets to sleep, 
but skims and carries 

everyone, everywhere. 
I try so hard to be a good 
vein, easily found, producing. 

I know you want me to
be better so more people 
can hear me, so I don’t break 

my heart and throat 
straining. The desire 
to please is self-imposed. 

Lie down to find your breath,
you tell me, and I do. 
Sync my rise 

to yours. 
How much 
are you holding? 

How much 
can the floor 
carry for you?

No body 
is ever finished, 
fixed. Like a river 

I’ll massage my rocky jaw, 
find my mouth, 

and open. 


Alexa Smith is a poet and performer from Washington D.C. She lives in Philadelphia, where she edits Apiary Magazine. You can find her poems online in Entropy, Peach Mag, Dark Wood, and Memoir Mixtapes.

“Dear River Body Song Instructor” is a response to the video exhibition 2 RIVERS + 30 YEARS by Laura Heyman and Luxin Zhang, written and recorded for the Everybody Ekphrastic Audio Tour at Vox Populi in Philadelphia as part of Just in Time: 30 Years of Collective Practice.