Description of Symptoms
Now my hands buried
in my hair, resting on piano keys
in the back of my head.
This is the music I am playing
through my mind: a dark room singing
a song that will not have children.
Lying on the floor tonight, snowflakes
cut from paper laid over my eyes, a hand
carved from wood laid over my mouth.
If the truth is the thing you must not say,
I will speak for the vase now
as it falls: it is better never
to be at all.
A hand on the back of my head
made of glass, my love, my eyes,
filled with wire, life. Once
I watched a bird’s shadow cross a field
in the wind: a black hat that could not stop
tumbling. My eyes are sore
from seeing, my lips from speaking.
How a ribbon curls when pulled
across a scissor’s blade, I am practicing
transformation, pain. How the dark hair
of imagination, uncut, grows down
to the floor. What is left
but to make a world, a war?
Or a landscape in which to stay alive
(ghost flower/house of breath). Another wish: language
drilled through ice, through my life.
If grief is love with nowhere to go, this is
my mouth turning into snow.
This is somewhere.
Copyright © 2023 by Allison Benis White. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 20, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
“This poem was written after filling out medical intake forms for a doctor’s appointment last year. I was grieving for a friend who had ended her life, and I was experiencing symptoms I could not quite articulate. The poem surprised me with its ending, reminding me that language is a place for love to go.”
—Allison Benis White