the body remembers everything it has ever been

Editor’s Choice: 2024 Philadelphia Stories Poetry Contest


and by this I don’t mean the eggs in me that grew

inside the fetus that was my mother inside her mother’s womb


I mean how when cats flick their talkative tails we sense

precisely the heft of our own, feel the spark and the stretch

of dormant muscles ready to twitch


I mean how we are blessed by remnants of

first-worm’s segmentation so yes our guts

have brains and yes our tongues are

smart and lissome as octopus tentacles and yes

our hands can reach from each side of

our bilateral bodies and in the middle

meet and clap and clap again


I mean how when I whisper you have wings you open

your chest, you pull your shoulders back, you feel your arms

retract and sprout anew through the exact

places in your back that ache whenever you

have given up hope.


Shhh now—a secret: your thyroid gland is in

your neck, for once you needed it to pull that precious

iodine from the water fluttering through your

gills. Now your fingers are flicking, aren’t they,

readying to reach, aching to touch those most familiar

flaps –


go on, no one’s looking, and your hand

knows just where on your neck to land.

Elliott batTzedek is a bookseller, poet, and liturgist who lives in Philadelphia. Her poems and translations have been published in: American Poetry Review, Massachusetts Review, Lilith, I-70 Review, Hunger Mountain Review, Humana Obscura,Sakura Review, Apiary, Cahoodaloodaling, Naugatuck River Review, Poemeleon, Poetica, Philadelphia Stories, and a Split This Rock poem of the week. Her chapbook the enkindled coal of my tongue was published in January, 2017 by Wicked Banshee Press. A chapbook of translations from Shez, A Necklace of White Pearls, is forthcoming from Moonstone Press in 2024.