BY ANNE KAIER
In the museum, Christ's ribs
jut from his polychrome chest.
I circled that Burgundian cross -
its yellow limbs, its red cuts,
the only salve I could stand
those winter afternoons when
you lay dying.
I took your head in my hands,
fingered the long line of vertebrae
bursting down your back,
hid black towels
so you wouldn't see the blood
if it choked your throat.
You died in morphia,
your body finally
empty; I'm told
not to harry your spirit,
to let you go,
but I still feel the brush
of your skull
on my breast.
In a room suffused with your smell,
tumors snake through your chest.
You throw your gaunt head back,
pull your starving body out of bed.
Busses groan on Manayunk Avenue
this late December afternoon.
Tight-lipped, I sew beneath a Tiffany lamp,
you twitched your yellow hair, and said:
"even a woman who has no child,
feels like a mother."
Now I stitch a linen cloth; I
eat your face with my eyes.
PROBING DR. HUNT
On Christmas Eve,
my arm lay lightly on the sofa back
You took my hand and matched it to your own,
laughing at how they fit.
But when I moved my finger on your thigh,
it was too much for us
and we went to find a Midnight Mass.
St. Theresa of Avila, mystic, carried a scourge,
her disciplina. In Bernini's great statue,
she lies in God's clutch,
with her knees raised.
Is this what you want?
Does your body only come alive for pain?
Will you kiss me if I tie your slender hands
behind your back?
When you look into your patient's eye, Dr. Hunt,
how do you find his sickness there?
At 39, still looking like a kid
with cropped hair and rat's tail, somehow
you mine schizophrenia, depression,
diseases so fierce,
even you can't miss them.
Why are you drawn by pain that's thicker than your own?
Your eyes are furtive, Dr. Hunt.
Once only, in a diner,
you opened them wide as a cat in the dark
and looked at me.
When I close my eyes, I see
the brown furze above your lip,
the perfection of your body,
breasts like shells, a black mound.
But when you go,
like deer who slide into the dark,
you leave no scent behind.
Like a shrimp, I am veined.
You must peel me
to taste my fruit.
In the Art Museum, St. Barbara
stands on a triptych, her nipples
torn out. Blood drips in ovals
down her breasts.
A golden halo hovers.
In the next room, Balinese dancers swing Buddha bellies,
lift rounded breasts.
I find them beautiful but hard to describe.
When I first moved into my house,
I looked for my own image,
walking in the garden.
But I met her leaning over the fireplace,
to be flogged. Only then,
could I come.
Curry on my clit.
Orbison in my ear.
at last, it's really
Is this the body I have fought so hard to find,
still cased in a carapace,
while other women
trumpet sexual power?
I slither into it
like a forest snake that's lain in wait
Get a grip
On the sweetest little tit in town!
Vanilla scoop, raspberry rip.
All in a sugar cone!
Conical shape approximate. No guarantee of freshness.
2003 All rights reserved.
Did Vincent van Gogh
cut his ear off hearing voices?
For days, last week, my skin stretched so taut
across my ears, it pulled my flesh apart
so my glasses sat
on a ridge of rusted blood.
And so last night, I ripped
the dead skin from my ear to
free the moving flesh, vowing
I would never
let it heal.
THE DRESSING TABLE
In the danger zone of mother's dressing room,
at five on a February afternoon
a slender woman in a slip
works at her mahogany table,
sketching brows and painting eyes,
deft after years as a practicing beauty.
I watch from the blue chintz chair,
hardly a gazelle at fifteen.
Her perfume's the color of scotch.
With hands that hug me so hard it hurts, she
rubs on lipstick, smacks
her lips, and snaps the compact shut,
as if she's trumped at cards.
I feed on the scent of her,
willing her to bring me into the game of
women hunting men, victories
she keeps for herself.
She steps into her satin gown.
"Zip me up, will you, honey? I'm late."
I do it with my rough, red hand.
A spray of diamonds at her breast,
she flicks her eyes in her full-length mirror.
"How do I look?"
She curves her hand half-moon
around my face and rustles out.
Will I restore my garden,
rim the pool with peacock tile,
let the fountain splash, tempt
new women with all my worn-out guile,
or still console myself
with foreign girls;
flirt with a pink Renoir in a yellow hat,
peek at a shapely Moore on an English hill,
ponder Vita in her Persian guise
or watch a cloudy Rembrandt
brush her silks on naked thighs?