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Balm


ISSUE:  Autumn 1998
The hip bone’s connected to the (beat) thigh bone.
The thigh bone’s connected to the (beat) knee bone.
The knee bone’s connected to the (beat) shin bone.
Now hear the words of the Lord.

*

I said to Laura,
“I don’t see how novels can get written, they’re so long.”

“You just form a relationship with it,” she said,
tossing her Farrah-Fawcett hair,
“Like you do with your body, you know?
You do the things that are good for it,
don’t do the things that are bad for it, you know,
like you can’t not have a good relationship with
your own body.”

“Oh.”

*

First I slapped my face and chest
until they were red and stinging.

Then I yanked from its hook in the bathroom
the pretty nightgown, the thin nightgown
with all those little tucks, the nightgown
sprayed with Obsession perfume for a man
who never showed. And I ripped it in two,
in four, in a dozen pieces, two dozen pieces—
how the pearl buttons flew!

Then I stabbed my hand with my pen—
this was during the loud groaning—
but the pen merely broke, so I took
and smeared the ink all over my tongue and
my cheeks, mixed in with the usual tears.
What a sight!

That’s who I saw in the mirror then,
when I struck a match and lit the eyelet trim
on the yoke of her real nightgown,
the ugly flannel nightgown she had on
“That filthy girl on fire can’t move!” and so
an invisible woman comes to her rescue,
dashes, with cupped palms, water upon her.
And so they got to the dawn, rocking.
And got to a psychiatrist within the week.

*

Now I wash every day, to remember.
I remember every day
with the clean white towel
and the almond-scented lotion:

The toe bone’s connected to the (there) foot bone,
The foot bone’s connected to the (there) ankle bone,
The ankle bone’s connected to the (there) shin bone . . .
Now hear the

the comforting sound of crickets.

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