Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Not a Description

							for Elizabeth Willis

Only on skin and muscles can we, without harming ourselves, build a symbolic system. She stood at the heart of the matter, holding an egg. A child was being beaten. We recorded everything. Recoded everything. A fish was being eaten. A cry is not a description.


Much of what we observe about the skin. She blushed deeply, perched on the bedpost. Throat parched. We used scientific language without, however, understanding the adjective. She did not want to drop the egg. A cry which cannot be called a description cannot therefore be called swimming in the nude. Tiny fish like silver needles with the current.


Asked point blank, she said a cry was neither a description nor represented in the frontal region. We believed nothing. Conceived nothing. Even with powerful gravitational pull, an angel's complexion resists. She felt a lull in eye movement. Should she go back to sleep? With somebody else's marriage band on her finger?


When the surgeon's knife penetrates the skin, not all persons can be made to look alike. Though given the same pain. If she dropped the egg she would break the dream. Scenes rife with fainting make us want rain. Whales in smooth, hipless motion rising high out of the water. That someone can utter a cry does not mean she can describe the nature of overtones. Or stains linked to association areas.


A cry, which is not a description, is not an image either. Exactly what was removed from her pelvis? The dream narrowed to the fear that comes after. The feel of cold fish scales. Against her skin. Fins out of water. Damage to the battery will affect all connections, whereas damage to a single wire depends on its position in the circuit.


A cry, which is more primitive than a description nevertheless is a description. Heat brought from inside the body to the surface of the skin and rapidly lost. The speed depends on the assembled crowd. The machine's warm parts rest on the floor. The word is not innocent. The dream not interpreted. Not all fibres cross to the opposite side of the brain.

Credit


From Split Infinities. Copyright © 1998 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Used with the permission of the author. 

Author


Rosmarie Waldrop

Born in Germany in 1935, Rosmarie Waldrop is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, fiction, and criticism

Date Published: 1998-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/not-description