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Quick to commit, she
left the oven on, the paper
too close to the flame,
was “out of town and heart
rent at the loss.” The gas soaked
rags. The spark in the curtain.
Your forgotten robe, fire
retardant and rose, swirls
in the gathering ash.
The cake will stay uncut, the gifts
wrapped, the ceremony not yet
snapped shut. She runs
hot wax in a candle, pushing
the edge, made pliant by heat, until
at last the wax
no longer held back
spatters onto your hip.
Then cooling. The scald never as bad
as the girl who, to see in it,
pulled down a pan of boiling oatmeal.
The moment past tip gives
its center over
to gravity and you
stand, face raised. Stop now.
Promises have been made.
Even light, tightening
its wavelength, can cut. The casual
annual x-ray. She walks
uncovered to the car. Once the surface
splits, the inside is irretrievably
burning. All of it.
Your cells, again, forgotten.
Hold the phone to your heart.
Fiber-optic transmission is sign
and symptom. The pathology is distance—your voice
as light in my ear.
“The remedy undergoes a violent shaking—succussion—in solution.
Then dilute. Even in the drug's absence, its vibration
imprints the solvent molecule.” Solve me. That memory given
to the living system.
and phone lines—
—reveal gut and language
jumpy with synapse.
(Light gets under our skin.)
(Not yet, my photon, a means to transmute
this vascular mix to impulse and back through slim glass.)
illumination. That external space still wider than flesh, though the syllabic dose transcends.
Symptoms come on with the first relaxation into alpha. I wake
with skin tympanic and cardiac
pinch. For better or for worse you may feel
restless, anxious, a cold dry
wind which triggers a sudden
fever's onset. For ovarian pain on the left
and in spring: Lachesis mutus—
a venom, pyretic. (She holds
this word and the wire it
travels—hands her sister
the scissors.) A full dose inhibits
nerve function in the heart and speeds red cell death. In dilution
the body is nudged from hot flash, from
the spasmodic period, faint, and
flutter. “Life's lot altered.” When she
draws us out: the severing stroke
“Sulfur at one part per 5 x 1011 carries
scent.” (Why not you in my fissures still?)
“Dilute a vial one drop to one hundred over one dozen iterations”: it retains
no double helix. Only a limbic state: semi-solid, harboring in its structure
the electrochemic cast of its smallest loss. Only
memory with which to hold
that shape which could
A salmon at sea knows its home
water at 1 ppm.
Uncontain me, my limbic, we share a skin.
The fiber optic speed of voice converted to light and
back the cortex gets, but at medullar levels a disparity in
scale and sense. I hear, but no scent of—
Subdermal, electric, our
interpenetrated cells are stretched to
archipelago by the unyielding
air. Succuss me. You have. Shaken.
“Fever with a thirst and moist skin.” Atropa
belladonna dilates the eyes
to brightness, addresses right ovary
pain and loss of voice. The largest will be
undone by its smallest echo, which
stimulates the same ache as illness
and shows us balance.
Spin life in. You may
tremble, may know
the percentage of flesh mostly fluid.
Grace That Lies
Each “right” elicits a muddle of left
footed, switching poses as body
or brain shuts off and leaves
First, second, relevé, plié, sag and soften around positions
deserted for decades. Their bodies, recalling small
ease, folding double-lever
frames off the floor by muscles accustomed to the slump of desk work
into adolescent angles and perimenopause in one pose,
shoulders back, at rest on themselves.
Nothing has passed and a life since they leapt
across a room, formation ragged and grave, driven
by a voice of vague accent urging
higher, longer, faster, wider, reach, reach, reach—
replaced today by a bellow,
and bellylaugh that elates them, sloppily on pointe
straining higher knowing
grace that lies not in wishing
they may one day be
every girl's music
box—Look. Their audience
is a mirror, themselves in arabesque, seagulls, and diva bows, left, right,
the long leg, the rose. No applause but the slap
and brush of thighs, rolls at waists
for a curtsy, a jiggle of breasts, quick breaths at easy steps.
They are fierce,
radiant in what they did not become.
Melanie Cooley lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she is co-owner of Handygurl Home Repair and Remodeling. Her poems have appeared in Persona and Spinning Jenny, and she has received an Emerging Artists Award from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
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