a drawing of the nervous system and a poem titled signal

I send a note to Kelly: Kind of spontaneous thinking…you mentioned once – maybe us working together on body stuff. Are you interested? I am working on the nervous system. It’s so beautiful! It feels like the hardest thing I think I’ve taken on.

Kelly responds: What a lovely surprise! I too remember that conversation we had, have thought back to it, intrigued by the possibility. So yes, perhaps this is a time to see what would turn out, turn up, emerge, your images and my words.

Today: Monica, here is, below, a poem, inspired by your nervous system art. I hope you like it! It’s been mind altering to think, even this small bit, about our bodies and how they work.

I love it Kelly. Thank you!

Nervous System – Female (posterior view)


Signal  by Kelly Nelson

Noises, plenty—

steady bass line of the heart, wheeze
and let go of the bellows, gasp

and trickle of your last meal
switchbacking your gut.

Yet when brain tells
hand to play the G above middle C,

when skin mentions
the stove is still hot,

it’s all nudge and nod, quiet
wink of the nervous system.

I want my messages heard.
At the intersection

of my left arm and rib
cage, place a herald with the voice

of Maya Angelou to recite the red
threads and bird wings that radiate

through me—Hear? She’s already begun.


Kelly Nelson is a poet and teacher.
She is the author of the chapbooks Rivers I Don’t Live By and
Who Was I To Say I Was Alive.
She lives in Tempe, Arizona & teaches Interdisciplinary Studies at Arizona State University.
More → Kelly Nelson

….and yes, we’ll be doing this again.

rivers i don’t live by

In early March I receive a request from poet Kelly Nelson. She won a chapbook contest, she explains. The small collection of 18 poems will be published in the fall by Concrete Wolf, a press in Washington state.

Kelly writes:

I love the anatomy series you’ve been working on – both human and animals.

My chapbook is called “Rivers I Don’t Live By” and deals with themes of place and dislocation. I would love to have a detail from your work “You Are Here” or from another map-like piece of yours as the cover art. I think that would fit beautifully with the title of my book as well as with the theme.

RiversIDontLiveBy coversm

I receive 10 signed copies this week. The cover includes a detail shot of a work titled It’s All Intimate.

Naturally I make associations to the way I experience an art exhibition and how I might relate to Kelly’s chapbook. It’s a small book, with an appealing cover. I like the way it feels. I think of each poem like a painting, together they are a series – a connected body of work. I open the book and look at Kelly’s words.

The Practice of Female Dispersal
Two million years ago, males stayed close to home, females radiated.

The first poem and its first line catch my full attention and I go sit and do a full read.

Congratulations Kelly!

Thanks for inviting me be a small part of this. I understand now why my maps and studies caught your attention.

Rivers I Don’t Live By is available through Amazon and Concrete Wolf Publications

About the Author
Kelly Nelson’s poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net and have appeared in 2 River View, I-70 Review, Watershed Review and elsewhere. She’s the recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and was a Visiting Artist at the Regional Cultural Center in New York Mills, Minnesota. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Brandeis University and teaches Interdisciplinary Studies at Arizona State University.

For more info visit → Kelly’s website.