Tuesday, November 23, 2010

183. Poem at the Midpoint

we could
through counting
make it forward
into space
to the middle
of a motion

I. One-eyed at the point at which one eyelid is closed

She would imagine that this one eye would sit in the center of her forehead, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-encompassing, replacing all other eyes and means of perception. The eye as a door that opens and closes, one that lets light into a darkness that she couldn’t see because she stared into the middle of a light, unblinking.

II. Tousled at the point of requiring hair for any tousling

She had hair that did not contain itself in a shape resembling the effects of sculpting. Instead, the wind had wound it into knots and notes of music so that her hair accompanied or challenged the birds at their own game. Sometimes, she would find entwined within her hair little notes scribbled surreptitiously on pieces of foolscap:

Concentrate on the least piece

It matters only to the moment

What we have is what we’ve lost

Dementia: the diminution of dimensions

Order but not an order

It came to a middle, not to an end

III. Threnody at the point of discovering death

The point was simple but unavoidable. The shadow of death fell across her world, and it was a shadow cast by her sun. A shadow of her earth against her moon, which pulled her body back into motions and into place. A cool shadow that comforted her. She felt well enough to sleep, though she couldn’t quite sleep through it.

IV. Foreign at the point of perceiving it as if for the first time

If she opened her eye in the middle of her head—which was merely one of her two eyes left open with the other one closed, usually the left one open and moving at a swivel against the visions before it—she could look into a mirror and allow her eye to see her eye on her face in the mirror, or her eye in the mirror on her face, and she would not recognize it, seeing only an inkwell, which she had never seen before and, thus, could not identify.

V. Fife at the point of marching into battle

Sure, she could hear the little high-pitched tweets coming out through her nose, breath squeezed through too tight a spot and for just long enough to make a tune, but she thought nothing of it until she heard the drums and their insistent beating, the sound of her heart beating like a drum and beating out a rhythm that no-one else would hear.

VI. Six-shooter at the point of being drawn

She realized she could not draw the revolver as quickly as she could withdraw it from a holster, which she had already mistaken for a cow, but the process of drawing seemed required by the act of self-preservation imagined at the point that someone else had drawn a gun on her—on her left calf, and delicately, in a maroon red that reminded her of the dried blood beside the bullet hole.

VII. Seventh sign at the point after the sixth sign’s already been seen

Through the reading of signs was not how she had expected to be remembered, not by her skill in reading the spoors of some unseen quarry or the revelatory expressions that any face displays. If she had not completed the sixth grade, however, she would not have realized the need for the seventh. The second tally mark after the fasces of five gave it all away.

VIII. Ate out at the point of not wanting to prepare a meal

First, she didn’t understand how threes were ever square, and if she had ever owned squares she’d want for of them, which she would call squares squared. Yet each day required that she perform certain ritual actions, sometimes according to a system of numbers, so it was that she found herself trapped by the requirement of taking three meals into her body:

1. Meal in the morning: She would have had porridge but they were out of oatmeal, so she settled for an egg sunny-side-up, and she felt a shadow slide over her.

2. Meal at noon: For this meal she would have preferred a soup, but she had heard from a source that it was an evening meal and beautifully so. Instead, she had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (traditionally made with jam) on two pieces of white bread.

3. Meal in the evening: This was the only meal she had prepared herself for, deciding on lamb stew. She imagined the death of the lamb that brought such sweetness to her tongue.

The names of the meals were foreign to her, as was the process of counting, so she invented ways to pretend she knew what people called things. She found herself always in the middle of things and always inventing a way to move forward.

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