The Self I am Today

Shares half an opening line with Kaveh Akbar’s “Pilgrim Bell”


The self I am today is quiet. She stirs a pot of soup. Smells a bar of sandalwood soap kept on her desk. She folds the bath towels. Puts the bath towels away on their shelves. She worries over an infected tooth, and tries to control her tongue. She knits one side of a cropped summer sweater. She makes ribs and little knots, a seersucker stitch, and wraps the work around the bar of sandalwood soap to imbue it with fragrance for the next time she picks up her knitting. But it is as though her tongue has a self of its own. A curious self that yearns to see what newness has come into its room. It pokes and prods the tooth before she can stop it.

The self I am today sits for meditation and loses all trains of thought. Goes in and out of dreams. In and out of kneecaps and wrists, the vertebra of the spine. The cradle of the pelvis. The brain in its chamber. She tries to lose the self, to let the big and small anchors of her life fade and be forgotten, to enter silence. But the self I am today cannot forgot the self. She runs from silence. She can’t stick with the breath. Her skin itches all over. The self knows these things–the itches, the running are messages. Notice, the self says.

The self I am today buys three types of bird feeders and socks of seed and cakes of seed and bags of seed from the home improvement store. She spends forty dollars on a small wastebasket for her bathroom. She takes her daughter with her to buy these things, and the daughter disappears down aisles, sits in a display chair in the outdoor living section and spins and spins. But the self I am today doesn’t panic or call out. She finds her daughter every time and holds her hand. She buys her daughter a Venus flytrap and a packet of pink cosmos seeds.

The self I am today cleans the house. It is her day off from a job that slowly drains away all joy, a job with so many to-dos, she has to make lists, keep calendars, send herself reminders to keep up. It is not the job she imagined she would have as an adult. The self I am today vacuums and wipes down sinks and mirrors, cleans toilets, makes beds, loads the dishwasher, puts away dishes. She smells the sandalwood soap wrapped still in its box and wrapped deeper in her
knitting. She eats an entire sleeve of Thin Mint cookies and waves away her promise to consume only nourishing foods this weekend.

The self I am today writes this story out long hand in black ink pen. It is one promise she keeps–to write something today. Her handwriting yawns and loops across the pages. Her tongue finds the tooth again, and this too is a message. Notice, the self says. Notice the information pain and itches and running bring. There is no control.

The self I am today goes gentle on me, the way rain goes gentle into a flower. The way sunlight from a window floats across a floor.

Lydia Gwyn

Lydia Gwyn’s stories, poems, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in F(r)iction, Poetry Salzburg Review, Elm Leaves Journal, the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Kaleidoscoped Mag, and others. She is the author of the flash fiction collections Tiny Doors (2018, Another New Calligraphy) and You’ll Never Find Another (2021, Matter Press). She lives in East Tennessee with her family and works at East Tennessee State University as an instruction librarian. Find her online at

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