I don’t want to say anything. What is it to be saying? Force speech, rape speech. I have no subjectivity or light subjectivity. Speaking, defunct. Land mass floats. And the forests have been felled. And the antlers, snapped. Morphed lips, already sewn. Most of us are keen to mouth the word, “beast.” Everyone is talking talking talking like dentures, clack clack, but nothing is really said. Or so much chatter static. I am not saying anything either, am waiting and breathing. My body is speaking. Expressing the thingness of the thing. It chats at me, motoring. In the taxi, a tree shaped purple fragrance floats across face.

--

To be a red 
scratch or 
red scotch, 
depending on 
your liking,
calculation 
of the sublime, or 
the sublime itself—

Memory fixed— 
—and 
then splatter.
My mother in 
her pink kitchen 
washes what 
the garden 
and its grey 
chemicals produced. 
Outside, the gate 
ajar, the dog 
run wild-ing. A thing 
called girl splay
or wheat heart. 
We could draw 
a chalk line there. 

This is not conceptual. This is a poem. You are a poem. I am. 

The hesitancy.
The undoingness. 

More secrets: humiliation as release. 

The men all say “I want to stretch you out,” feel themselves big in this small corner of the world. How chivalrous, the ache of any obvious sliding down. What would the poem be without wings to block out the light?

More by Dawn Lundy Martin

Disciplines [If there is prayer, there is a mother kneeling]

If there is prayer, there is a mother kneeling, hands folded to a private sign. We recognize it. If there is a mother kneeling, hands a tent, she is praying or she is crying or crying and praying at the same time. Although it is recognized, the signals of it, it is private and no one knows, perhaps not even she, the content of the prayer, and perhaps its object. If there is a mother praying, she is on her kneels over some object, as one does not often pray in the middle of the room. One prays at the window or over the bed, the head bent slightly up or down, the eyes open or closed. This is a prayer for prayers, you know, a wanting something equal to a prayer, even though I am not a mother.

Disciplines [This is how much fortuitiveness weighs]

This is how much fortuitiveness weighs. Measure in dirt. Of vices and other habits. Of leaving a house at 3 am and drawn as would any tether and here is your lock, my dear. I want to say this plainly: it is only when I am in a woman’s arms that my body is not a threat. Neither crosses nor damnation. Fix nor flutter. Hangs here, this balance, and one opens the car door and drives along the river where it said a crossing might happen. Had happened. Many times. Sticklers will say, not here. There are no crossings here. But, there the I is, reflection and delivered, on the other side. Like hams, I think,
holding on to what was.

Disciplines [Near adust. Caves. Closings]

Near adust. Caves. Closings. Relentlessly the body leaves the bed. Does things. A day is merry and eager for prosperity. It dings dings the bell in its own head. The ritual of masking the breasts in heavy fabric, of covering the legs and feet. A face from the mirror says, I am pretty, I am pretty. Skin of opening, meant for opening. A sex in training. Trimmed, fastidious. Damp reasoning. Yet, adherence. Mask the breasts. Mark the skin. You are not from here, are you? Part tissue. What does it feel like? It feels like everything else. It must be different from some other thing. No. This is what a woman's body is. An effort in covering or not covering. A way toward exits.

Related Poems

To Be Continued:

The partial mastectomy took a long time to execute
And left a huge raggedy scar
Healing from that partial mastectomy took even longer
And devolved into a psychological chasm 2 times the depth
And breadth of the physical scar from the mastectomy that was raggedy
And huge
Metastatic reactivation of the breast cancer requiring partial mastectomy
That left a huge raggedy scar in the first place now pounds
To pieces
A wound head-set fifty times more implacable and more intractable
Than the psychological chasm produced by the healing process
That was twice as enormously damaging as the surgery
Which left a huge raggedy scar

And so I go
on

Arthritis is one thing, the hurting another

for Adrienne Rich in 2006

 

The poet's hands degenerate until her cup is too heavy.

You are not required to understand.
This is not the year for understanding.

This is the year of burning women in schoolyards
and raided homes, of tarped bodies on runways and in restaurants.

The architecture of the poet's hands has turned upon itself.

This is not the year for palliatives. It is not the year for knowing what to do.

This is the year the planet grew smaller
and no country would consent to its defeat.

The poet's cup is filled too full, a weight she cannot carry
from the table to her mouth, her lips, her tongue.
The poet's hands are congenitally spoiled.

This is not one thing standing for another.

Listen, this year three ancient cities met their ruin, maybe more,
and many profited, but this is not news for the readers here.

Should I speak indirectly?
I am not the poet. Those are not my hands.

This is the year of deportations and mothers bereaved
of all of their sons. The year of third and fourth tours,
of cutting-edge weaponry and old-fashioned guns.

Last year was no better, and this year only lays the groundwork
for the years that are to come. Listen, this is a year like no other.

This is the year the doctors struck for want of aid
and schoolchildren were sent home in the morning

and lights and gas were unreliable
and, harvesters suspect, fruit had no recourse but rot.

Many are dying for want of a cure, and the poet is patient
and her hands cause the least of her pain.

You’re really faithful to your abusers, aren’t you?

Like love: first you pick up; then you lay down; then discard; then discard; then discard. That’s love. Right? Did somebody say Dominoes? The problem of a street game is you. You’re already doing it wrong. Doing it wrong before you wake up. Before you walk up the street. Cross the crowded corner. Case in point: When you reach the bones table, you stop. Stare. Consider. Count. Think: This is a lovely afternoon for a friendly game of dominoes! Call next. Figure they don’t hear. Call next again. You call louder. You call in Spanish. Then you walk (again, with the walking) into the bodega. Come out with four 40oz bottles. Suddenly somebody hears. Suddenly the smell of holes burning pockets. Suddenly, the game you watch ends. Like love. Right? Somebody?