blackbirdonline journalSpring 2023  Vol. 21  No.3
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Small Songs of the Body

after Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch

I could say you are not made of this light.
Could say I know the soft violence of a mirror
when I lean into it, into just one more wrong image
of myself in a wrong body. I could say
your circlet of gold will not let you free
from your name, but I am not that sort of pessimist.
Still, it won’t. I could say their cold
mouths will call you as you call you.
I could say the subjunctive will collapse,
but who am I to speak of grammar’s half-life.
I would speak aloud to you, if the man’s voice
leaving this body were not a chain around my throat.
I would say you could define yourself, if the chain
around your foot bone were not ripping you out of life.

after Lili Elbe’s Poplars Along Hobro Fjord

The birdless trees painted into reflection—
more water than tree. The water
more mirror than water, with only a slight
dip below earth to reassure us we are not
mistaken to see as we see, to be
as. Poplars in a row bend at unlike angles,
interrupt expectation. How do I say
this is not enough for our eyes? A sky
bodied other than as thought.
Reflected off canvas, Lili sees herself
in the eyes of a man wanting
her to be a man, still in the body
of a man, and understands he is painting
over her, through her. Is painting himself.

after Robert Rauschenberg’s 1959

Feathers darkling drunk with another new perception, not even feathers.
A kiss on the side of a wall, of an unseeable wall, tenderness against lifeless vision.
A body in relation to the word body on a frail surface, absent.
And the body absent, but there is always a body—anatomy of an alphabet.
I do not know whether the eagle is perched on a box or has burst forth into gray.
Aperture—like an eyelid—separating a moment into only light and not light.
All photographs are fading.
Tell me, what does a photograph capture—why we use the word capture rather than represent.
Not a single camera can represent me, can see me.
There, a man on a park bench kissing a person in a man’s body, not even a man’s body.
And still. And, still.
When did the wind lose a body in which to breathe?
I was mistaken, the man on park bench had been erasing
yet another person with his lips.  

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