IN YEARS FORWARD WE RECOGNIZE NO ONE, NOT EVEN OUR BODILESS SELVES
Blighted mind, the doctors said. I gave them enough material to build a career they could be proud of, without primer,
without polish, without augmentation - lovely and lovely without pretense. Tonight
a wolf walks toward me and I let the car idle, sheep gathering in the headlights, gravel road beginning its washout.
My sweater unravels at the hem, where it began, once a skein fastened to a lamb. I tug at yarn so soft and warm I imagine it houses
your heartbeat, but one slipped knot and the whole thing will come undone and unstitch all the places your hands once traveled.
How long can a body sit, contained and flayed by no motion, soft as moth wings unfolding,
still weary from their night-tongue gorging on sweetmeats by porchlight? Does it rust like a weather-worn hinge
attached to a barn door, bowed and shut like an idled car, occupants lingering and sweltering?
Wolf, I think you are speaking to me in waves. Perhaps you are a forked tongue, or maybe a cleft palate.
Difficult to say without teeth. I sing off key to you, you burble back, together we are a river.
You are not concerned when I take from you. I crawl into your ossuary,
your foreign skyline, and through your stare observe the persistence of progress, the persistence of steel and blue, the spiral
that pierces clouds – so suddenly the mind descends, slowed by canopy in unmapped corners, to summon night from a molehill.
This winter I will huddle near the fire, the TV anchor droning in the living room, and I will watch him with my new wolf eyes
bared of expression. I will stir broth while the hours stare back. I will make soup and help you into bed.
When the shelves are empty, I will go out, the pharmacist still waiting on a stalled shipment, our number still on the list, she says.
A VIOLET THOUGHT ISOLATED IN THE ICU OF 2AM
Caught in an autumn sky, florid, fluorescent, I can’t stop seeing the blighted birch leaves against it, leached yellow on spit-dark stems, blighted trunks split wide like a lightning strike. I used to
wade into the green-slick pond alone, smooth stones in my pockets, just to practice becoming a new phase of moonlight. I measured years by the wood’s veining branches and believed in how sacred
I was, like a secret, just by being kept. But there is always an I and another I ready to offer a widened stare, a close-mouthed portal, quirks pearling her peeled-bark trunk.
At 2AM, there’s no triage for a rootless thought, no sent home with a scrip, no shot of oxygen, no elegant pill. It rocks on its threshold, curled into the violet shadow of a solitary leaf.
I rehearse my ending, my lunar resurrection. It’s calming to be unknown, and unknowing enough to let minutes drip like an IV, ready to leave, ready to stay, an iridescent chrysalis in the static gray.
FLAME AS A CURRENT WE GET SNARED IN
Tethered to the new-risen moon of my sleepless mood, restive, difficult, I go out of my way to press against each one, then rinse my wrists under cool water until they lose their rose, these regrets and their sudden, shamed surface, a surfeit of past – past help and good only for searing the over-tangled dark inside my pale-veined temples. Memory, drifting in jetsam, caught in fragmented nets. Memory, in locked waterlogged chests, the detritus of seabeds.
I am laying it out before me again, a garage sale puzzle of my worst selves and their scald. My god, put it back in the chest filled with ribbons, stones, metal rings, the flat iron that was a real antique, once used as a doorstop, now just another object refusing to lose its attachment. A person and the sea can find communion by the mouth only. Shallow breath, bury these castaways beneath the slip of moonlight between linden and ash.
My eye is an omen. I keep it on planets pale as cumulous, string-less balloons held fast by a rising tide.
Someday, you reckless travelers must be undone, and then, I’m certain, will be free again.
Already this shore is breaking, shattered with glass that refuses to return to sand. I stand on a jagged edge,
ready to be my own god, gray wrists branching like spider webs spun in the corner of a child’s unused room.
I open my palm and whisper the boats in. Watch how they splinter. (I need to feel this.)
And if I lock the dark behind me? Toss the key beyond light’s grasp, beyond horizon, headstone, history?
Well, I too can choose to vanish, again and again. (My absence outpaces you.) Had you allowed yourself to push back
against the wreckage, you might have drifted safely away, your face a familiar reflection and an apparition.
I don’t stay to watch you slip under.
-- Christine Pacyk is a poet and educator living in the Chicago Suburbs. She holds an MFA in poetry from Northwestern University. Her work has been published in Jet Fuel Review, Beloit PoetryJournal, Crannóg Magazine, and Zone 3, among other journals.
Virginia Smith Rice is the author of the poetry collection, When I Wake It Will Be Forever(Sundress Publications, 2014), and a poetry chapbook, Whose House, Whose Playroom(Dancing Girl Press, 2017). She is poetry editor at Kettle Blue Review. Poems co-written with Christine Pacyk appear in They Said (Black Lawrence Press, 2018) and are forthcoming as a chapbook, The Internet Confirms How They Broke Down The Door, published by Dancing Girl Press.