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.
From Human Hours. Copyright © 2018 by Catherine Barnett. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press.
Catherine Barnett was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied at Princeton University and at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.
Barnett is the author of Human Hours (Graywolf Press, 2018); The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), which was the recipient of the 2012 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004).
Of Barnett's work, April Bernard has noted, "With subtle and cumulative force, The Game of Boxes builds a complex poetic structure in which fundamental questions about motherhood, trust, eroticism, and spiritual meaning are posed and then set into motion in relation to one another. The mind is delighted, the spirit enthralled, by this wonderful book."
Her awards and honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Writers' Award. Barnett, who also works as an independent editor, is the Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College, the Visiting Poet at Barnard College, and teaches in the creative writing program at New York University.
She lives in New York City.
Human Hours (Graywolf Press, 2018)
The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012)
Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced (Alice James Books, 2004)
Date Published: 2018-09-20
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/pain-scale