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Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 22.1 (2001) 174-176

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The Undoing; Where No One Follows

Lisa Bickmore

The Undoing

If it were my bed and my house, I'd turn
my hand to undoing. I'd strip the bedding
And blankets away, and unquilt the mattress
And shred the tick. The shoes I'd take
Out of the closet, ready for the feet leaving
The house in pairs, in pairs of pairs.
Sweaters we'd no longer need, since it's summer
And we no longer talk about the cold; and so out
Of the drawers they'd come, and the drawers, too,
The chests with their naked ribs. At the basin,
I'd leave the bar of soap, half dissolved from
Our hands' washings. Someone else will think
Of cleanliness. Out of the box would come the rings,
Earrings, necklaces of encircling affection; I'd

Open the windows to make my hand more free in
Letting fall the glittering things to the beds below.
Out of albums would fall the photographs, like leaves
Of an unsewn book. Even the socks with undarned holes
In their heels--these I'd unravel, stitch by minute stitch.
These domestic details have always prophesied
Their own demise; I fulfill their promise.
And those bodies, the bodies that sleep
In the beds! I am wondering what to do with them,
How to unmake what I've made, the bodies I've made.
Every day they are taller, longer, like tadpoles changing
Form in water, a dart and a wriggle, the disappearance [End Page 174]

Of a fin, the last vestige of a tail; then a muscled thigh,
The exact inventory of toes. These too are undoing,
Undoing their freshness and newness, leaving me
With only memory which does nothing but crowd
The house. Clean it out. Let these hands which have made,
Unmake. Let this be the end of my making.
Open doors, open windows. Let nothing
But air inhabit these rooms, these many mansions. [End Page 175]

Where No One Follows

. . . because of the nostalgia for dreams. . .
Garcia Marquez
Because the bed is crowded with more and more children,
       and the ghosts and angels of their nightclothes are wound
           around and around my arms and hands,
And the press of my husband's longings chokes the river of sleep,
       and no bed is wide enough for the storm of sleep thought,
           and the storm floods the banks which are the walls
Of a room too small for the rage of the river: therefore,
       I wake to a house of walls dissolving in the rush
           of the river where no one follows me, where
I walk alone beside the wide river, and since there are
       no shoes light enough for feet of a woman walking
           to the river alone, and the terrible and
The sorrowful and the lonely there are mine alone, and
       because mine, alone, is the name of that river,
           I look back to the bodies of my husband
And children, sleeping deeply, and the stars pour light
       on their foreheads and pillows, where I leave them,
           I leave them every night in dreams.

I look at my hands and feet and the water of the river
       rinses them in darkness. I am a new creature
           of darkness. I am unrecognizable even
To myself: because the moon is only half of itself;
       because the stars multiply; because the fish
           dream of water, the stones dream of fire;
Because my hands each mirror the other, and each rib
       is a bridge to the other side of the body. In the country
           of sleep, the night is sovereign, and a black sky
Is the double of the day. There I will never wake
       again: because the spell I learn by the river is
           my own secret, and I remember it only at night.

Lisa Bickmore's work has appeared in Quarterly West and Mudfish. Her book Haste was published in 1994 by Signature Press. Among her honors is an Academy of American Poets Prize. She was recently awarded an artist's...


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