The Sense of Where One Body Is
#1. The woman who lost her proprioception loved to ride in an open car.
The wind blowing across her face helped her recall
the sense of body-is, the are
of placement without looking at the part—the limb
as more than mechanism. A watch turning
on gold teeth. Notch
by notch, she had to learn to wear each moving bit.
# 2. In a different condition, less brutal, one senses
the severed body she grew among, the many bodies
making her. What shape does the remainder take
when some is gone? Where does the press
of being come from, minus one?
#3. Not amputation.
#4. Not epistemological, the question.
#5. One raucous shape, a pillowcase, that never
came apart. Grotesque
flesh sack bulging in all directions.
#6. To whom do I apologize?
Photo on Coarse Paper: Lisbon Prisoners Forced to Hood Together (1913)
The sacks scratch. Each one makes
a stub, a show
of dumb gongs struck
with slingshot holes. Plugged up,
wiped of other features. Together the group hovers “somewhere
between granite and evanescence.”
Light slashes through the drapes
to make a charcoal dog, a finger necklace,
a bib forehead, a sorrow seal,
a jaw swallowed by a yawn gone dark.
This is the moment before their ceremonial
return, unbagged recognition.
I thumb off
your brows, lids, mouth.
Look away from the smooth knob.
Making a Stink
I huffed oil paint
like glue. With turpentine
and linseed fumes, it plunged
me into sense,
a folding out. The thrill
knuckled under no solid.
I can’t locate that precise
odor any longer. Paint doesn’t
smell the same. Perhaps, I’m told,
because of danger. New didactics
note the minerals that masters used to grind
in the raw were often lethal to breathe.
History’s poison infuses thick
promise, cigar smoke and bus exhaust,
mercurochrome’s scraped air.
Mothballs’ secret closets. What’s the trade?
As if a scruple could prevent
the disasters that barreled over me
X and Years after
Christmas trees line the street all January, even to Lent, gone by Easter. They lie on their sides in and out of bags, sticking up from the rails around plots that pose as gardens on city blocks. No pine is more dead than it was when the trunk was chopped down and split off. “They’re all from Canada,” my husband said. Every year we spent together had they floated down the Hudson in bundles or in lines. I didn’t check facts: I saw the trees pushed off by red jacketed loggers.
Now my neighbors snap off branches as if they had never loved the pines. Arrange them over the naked dirt, pretending to protect it. The dirt makes a layer between us and the steaming grid underneath. Wires spark through winter.
I like the trees, half out of bags, a kind of kin, between in and out. He left long ago before years glassed and became easy to slip over. This snow bristles in the particular way of needles. In Canada, the loggers, their quotas of gashes filled and their fingers chapped, rest their axes.
There are four words for wonder
in Arabic. If I knew two,
would I get the trick of it? I got a letter
with four seals on the lip.
Objects have their lives
away from us—on counterpanes, in corners,
their own attentiveness apart. Surprise
comes when people I once knew
wear themselves as a disguise. I know him—but the sack
of the name attached to him
goes flat, the souls of those
I’s and thou’s.
puzzling rubbish. The letter whispers.
It says, better glance
at the plaster head two floors up, one window over, that might
be a pitcher regarding me
while it wells
with something else.
Better to intimate a wooden desk
scuffed on the street, embracing noon
Jean Kane teaches at Vassar College, currently in a tent. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Prairie Schooner, the Georgia Review, 3:AM, and American Short Fiction online. Her book of poems, Make Me, was published by Otis Nebula.