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  • Spontaneous Remission, and: A Life Beyond, and: Birth Narrative
  • Claudia Emerson (bio)

Spontaneous Remission

In the rare example, it disappears       in the aftermath—             or in the midst—

who can tell,       of a fever, extreme,             unrelated to the cancer:

a girl’s leukemia gone       when she awakes             from smallpox, a woman’s

tumor dissolved       in her breast after             heat consumes her for

two full days. Perhaps       such remission is the result             of the rude surprise

of the archaic, derelict       malady, most fevers made,             now, obsolete—polio,

rubella, influenza,       things of the past,             of vial and syringe.

And so, why not,       I consider how             I might engender it, [End Page 158]

immunized       as I have been against             all but what has

taken this hold       in me. Idiopathic             it must be, then,

something fiendishly       mine, inwrought,             unknown to it.

I could bury       myself in a pit             I will make of coals

and ash the way       my father banked a fire;             I could enshroud

myself in a scald       of steam; I could inject             myself with malaria,

an unnamed jungle’s       hot restlessness—             somehow make

the velocity of heat       so intense and decided             that I become clear

and radiant, my scalp,       my skull a nimbus,             like a dandelion’s filling out [End Page 159]

with its crazed halo       of seed, what I             was taught when small

to blow out       like a flame, the remaining             seed slim pins

my mother told me       to tell as time.             And when I wake

as from the childhood       bed, it will have             broken, all of it,

the veil of seeded       water on my brow             a sign there: something

atomized, cast       out, now, blown away,             by the arson that has

become the God in me. [End Page 160]

A Life Beyond

for Maurice Manning

You have told me       you passed into the space             beneath the loft,

the hay hook,       and, as though from             a darkened theater,

looked out through       the opposite door             into 1880, the cicadas

the same, you could hear,       the light changed somehow             but how you cannot say.

Your great-grandmother is       the girl in the field,             grasses to her

collarbone. She has no doll,       yet, not even that             pretense of the you

she will never know.       She has slipped away             from the house, from

some small task       she has been assigned,             something with the dullness [End Page 161]

of a spoon and bowl,       perhaps—just to turn herself             around out there,

in the sun, having spun       through the shadows             of the animals, having

turned herself inside       their breathing. That is             your crooked land,

exactly; you have seen       your name             on the deed. You are

in the cleft of her chin,       the brow bone, in             a face she has begun

to admire when she makes       a ladle of her hand,             and brings it to her

mouth to drink. She       does not know             that she has disappeared,

or that someone       will be looking             for her. She should

not be alone—       at the spring, in this             field—and so she is not. [End Page 162]

Birth Narrative

She has told it every year to me until       it is spoon-smooth. And she tells it in the collective             first person—that January day—

as though I am already there and part of it—       the way we pass beneath the sky low             and cloud-marbled, light-marbled, ice-heavy

with the storm that is yet to come. My father       drives us to the hospital where someone             sends him home, telling him there will be

no baby this day. At this point, in these       late retellings, we are alone, the ward             empty except for us—the narrow beds

strictly made, dozens upon dozens       of them, the floor buffed, polished as ice that has             never known the skate’s blade. Then, though there is

no one to deliver me from our labor,       she awakes from the ether and I am             in a new bassinet of finest wicker,

swaddled in white, around my wrist a bracelet       of porcelain beads that spell out our last name.             We still have it and finger the beads, the letters,

like new. She unwraps me to admire the flush       of me, to delight in the fat that I am.             No streetlights...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2168-5541
Print ISSN
0038-4534
Pages
pp. 158-164
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-31
Open Access
No
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