After we argued, I stood in the kitchen.Not comforted but washing the dishes
off to one side while he sorted the mail.Like the convent's rituals, which occupy
the body in case faith comes or trick the spiritso it can open to faith. In Masaccio's Expulsion,
Eve pauses just outside Eden's gates, handshalf covering her nakedness, her upraised face
a blur of rage or grief while Adam in his miserydoesn't notice. Night after night of inattention,
we cast ourselves out so far from where love wastill we didn't know how to get back. Sometimes
we grew afraid or curious and peeredtoward where we thought love was
nearby, intact, like a dog sent outwho lingers near the door. Soon, we thought,
we'd call or reach out to try to touch its flanksor open our arms to it. Except we knew
we'd made that story up to hide our needto keep proving we didn't deserve, either of us,
to be loved by the other. And all we could doto console each other for that knowledge
was stand together in the same roomwithout speaking or touching. [End Page 38]
The afflicted body itches, then one's fingers must pull out
the series of narrow fiberslodged in the skin
to be saved in a small container, a matchbox maybe
evidence of the frailty of all defenses, emblemof the need to joinwith other sufferersthough the doctors deny it
or else Morgellons is delusional parasitosis, transmittedby Internet, an obsessionalaversion to permeability or touch
though from the body's leavingsone can always devisea system, rationale
locate a proper name
despite the lag, the infelicity
as in simultaneous translationthe errors are perceptible onlyto those who speak both languages. [End Page 39]
A year later when I sat on my mother's chairand put my arms where hers had lain, the ugly,
brownish irises she transplanted from my old gardenwere unfolding again. Like winter peaches, peach colored,
smelling of peach but mealy and dry. Better to hold onein the supermarket and stop there. Better to have known
she would die soon, though in fact I did. In the desertthe amplitude of their flat leaves protects some plants.
They twist till they're perpendicular to the sun,too thin to be burned. I made myself not see
like a character on reality TV whose avariceor hurt preserves her, an evasion so extreme
that, watching, we're repelled and gratefulat all the terrible things that haven't happened yet.
The quiet in her room disguised my sadnessor covered or allowed it. She had sewn patches over
the torn spots, and I touched them, the black thread,the little holes her needle had made. [End Page 40]
Coming of Age
As in all families, someone is sick.
The older daughter won't apologize.All she wants is to be touched, to have been touchedso she can abandon her principles.
The frog in school had layers of skineach of which had to be pulled backand pinned to the wax,and inside all the organs were arrangedas in the textbook.
Because her mother is suffering, waiting againfor that phone callshe goes to her room and tries to chip offsomething from herself.
And then sometimesthe fog is beautiful
and a singing is heard from the bench on the hill
and it is easy to wander around barefoot, studyinga piece of stone, meadow, uninjured moth, pattern of light
then go insideand try to write about it. [End Page 41]
Ann Keniston teaches American poetry and creative writing at the University of Nevada. Her first collection of poems, The Caution of Human Gestures, was published in 2006 by David Robert Books. Recent poems have been published in Interim, New Ohio Review, and Antioch Review.