In childhood games of hide and seek we left
our shoes as decoys at the foot of floor-
length drapes. It is an act of faith, beginning
feet-first, but is invention recklessness?
Is misdirection a lie? How easily
we fill in any blanks, as if shapelessness
and space are to be remedied. His silence
left me too much room to fill, inventing
versions of the truth, each word a pixel
tightening, image shifting into higher
resolution. Think of that baby picture,
your extended hand. The flash obscured your face.
Or the image of a plane emerging—
if not for the angle, upward-tilting nose,
you’d think the plane was going down in flames.
The mirror shows me I am not myself,
but who I am it can’t say. The aged look
of the just-born speaks volumes of this journey.
In childhood you believed that everything
was waiting to be found. Think of the rocks
your father led you to, the fossils inside.
Think of the basement boxes spilling secrets:
love letters, photographs, cracked china dolls,
scent of damp and your grandmother’s perfume.
Think of the stillness of your hiding place:
your body stretched so flat beneath the sheet,
a wrinkle alone betrayed you. Later you sought
invisibility. You grew so thin,
protruding bones became a shroud; no one
could see beyond your hunger. Even now
your low-cut dress, electric blue and shining,
reveals décolletage that obfuscates
your words. You spend whole seasons hiding out,
emerging just to check the mail, but part
of you still waits, ear cocked for “Olly olly
oxen free.” A part of you still wants
to be unveiled, translated, figured out.
You want a savior to cut you loose,
Rosetta stone to clarify your story
or even just a breath of air, a light
to help you see your way back to where you started.
Secrets unveil themselves at ill-timed moments
in terms of the stability of one’s
emotions, but for plot they intensify
rising action. Life must earn the denouement.
Everyone reassures her that she’s not
as bad as the worst thing she has done.
But how can they assess what they don’t know,
so as to calibrate the scale? Look: nothing
is ever black and white, and a clean slate
is a myth. Even the made bed is just
a precursor to disorder, so if
someone says that she is good or she is bad,
take note that good is just a word. It doesn’t
hold water; its substance filters as through
a sieve, a screen. Take a good look in the mirror
she tells herself. You are not above the mess
you’ve made. But what if no one sees the mess?
It is hard to resist the seduction of a lie,
the way it tastes like liquor, dark and heavy,
like the tongue of a working man after his shift.
These bodies hold a lot of things we need
and so much that we don’t. Sometimes a person
wakes up and decides to be different.
Sometimes maybe she is, and people look
at her and say, when the anesthesia
wears off, You know, you’re a very lucky girl.
Planets align from time to time, and much
is made of the effects such cosmic chance
could have on Earth, though in fact the influence
is trivial; such coincidence can’t touch
the craft of carpenters with their dovetail
joints, welders with their pipes, mechanics
with their wheels and calibrations. There’s no trick
to their creations; precision must avail.
And what of the body? The chiropractor
tries to understand my pain, tries to adjust
my vertebrae, but the problem is my lust’s
incongruity with logic, a factor
that has no easy fix. I try to assuage
my desires by design, but now I find
myself off-kilter, haphazard, misaligned—
I fear I’ve gone too far to disengage.
These emotions don’t fit naturally in place.
I want to rearrange my heart, to alter
the facts, selectively recall—I falter,
fall out of line, think only of his face.