Floating above the gynecologist's hands,
Dolor looks down at me
with her many expressions.

Someone sketched the eyes, the mouths,
someone pinned them up,
arranged the faces

so they softly say, like this? like this?
The doctor says to choose one,
but I'm no fool, I close my eyes

and the speculum is blind and cool,
widened and distracting.
Like the Chikyū vessel drilling

downhole from the ocean floor
into the untouched mantle,
it shows we're scarred inside

by what years and use and trespass do.
Every day the women open their eyes
and follow me into the streets,

the cities, like a wind murmur begins
a rumor of waves, the faces of earth
saying let this pain be error upon me writ.

More by Catherine Barnett

Living Room Altar

Except for the shirt pulled from the ocean,
except for her hands, which keep folding the shirt, 
except for her body, which once held their bodies, 

my sister wants everything back now--

If there were a god who could out of empty shells
carried by waves to shore
make amends--

If the ocean saved in a jar
could keep from turning to salt--

She's hearing things:

bird calling to bird,
cat outside the door,
thorn of the blackberry against the trellis.

Providence

This evening I shared a cab with a priest
who said it was a fine day to ride cross town

with a writer. But I can't
finish the play I said,

it's full of snow.
The jaywalkers

walked slowly, a cigarette warmed
someone's hand.

Some of the best sermons
don't have endings, he said

while the tires rotated unceasingly
beneath us.

All over town people were waiting
and doubleparked and

making love and waiting.
The temperature dropped

until the shiverers zipped their jackets
and all manner of things started up again.

Sweet Double, Talk-Talk [iv.]

iv.

I know agape means both dumbly
open and love not the kind of love
that climbed the stairs to you.