1 Choose any angle you like, she said, the world is split in two. On one side, health and dumb good luck (or money, which can pass for both), and elsewhere . . . well, they're eight days from the nearest town, the parents are frightened, they think it's their fault, the child isn't able to suck. A thing so easily mended, provided you have the means. I've always thought it was odd, this part (my nursing school embryology), this cleft in the world that has to happen and has to heal. At first the first division, then the flood of them, then the migratory plates that make a palate when they meet (and meeting, divide the chambers, food from air). The suture through which (the upper lip) we face the world. It falls a little short sometimes, as courage does. Bolivia once, in May (I'd volunteer on my vacations), and the boy was nine. I know the world has harsher things, there wasn't a war, there wasn't malice, I know, but this one broke me down. They brought him in with a bag on his head. It was burlap, I think, or sisal. Jute. They hadn't so much as cut eyeholes. 2 (Magdalena Abakanowicz) Because the outer layer (mostly copper with a bit of zinc) is good for speed but does too little damage (what is cleaner in the muzzle—you've begun to understand—is also cleaner in the flesh), the British at Dum Dum (Calcutta) devised an "open nose," through which the leaden core, on impact, greatly expands (the lead being softer). Hence the name. And common enough in Warsaw decades later (it was 1943), despite some efforts in The Hague. I don't remember all of it, he wasn't even German, but my mother's arm— that capable arm—was severed at the shoulder, made (a single shot) a strange thing altogether. Meat. I haven't been able since to think the other way is normal, all these arms and legs. This living-in-the-body-but-not-of-it. 3 Sisal, lambswool, horsehair, hemp. The weaver and her coat-of-manyharrowings. If fiber found in situ, in agave, say, the living cells that drink and turn the sun to exoskeleton, is taken from the body that in part it constitutes (the succulent or mammal and its ex- quisite osmotics), is then carded, cut, dissevered in one fashion or another from the family of origin, and gathered on a loom, the body it becomes will ever bind it to the human and a trail of woe. Or so the garment argues. These were hung as in an abattoir. Immense (12 feet and more from upper cables to the lowest hem). And vascular, slit, with labial protrusions, skeins of fabric like intestines on the gallery floor. And beautiful, you understand. As though a tribe of intimates (the coronary plexus, said the weaver) had been summoned (even such a thing the surgeon sometimes has to stitch) to tell us, not unkindly, See, the world you have to live in is the world that you have made.
"Bicameral" from Magnetic North. Copyright © 2007 by Linda Gregerson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Date Published: 2007-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/bicameral