Here is reinvention: if you don’t like me, I can contort myself until you do. I can unfurl my tongue to accommodate Victorian phraseology. The potential calisthenics of bodily organs gives me hope today, but might worry me tomorrow. I am encouraged by the lift of your bushy brow. It makes me want to go further, push falling fences. I consider a colorful snood to match my eyes. Maybe peekaboo bangs, or eyebrows like Suzie Wong. I never claimed the innocence of intentions. I am a crescendo in a minimalist orchestra where every note is a plaintive whine and the underground timpani like a defective heartbeat. Where are you? I have street view maps but don’t know where to begin. Are you lost? Here I am, like Theda Bara, breathless on the railroad tracks, flapping heavy Max Factor eyelashes like the wings of a diseased bird. The cure is not simple. Place your finger on the arterial routes of my thrombitic veins to a heart that has turned itself inside out. In one time zone they might call it inconvenient; in yet another, a disease. I call it a romantic myth, though treatable. Smell my burning hair. Can you see the tiny flame in my ocular region? The circle remains vicious.
Because there are more than four chambers of the heart,
and half of your wife’s body has turned to stone,
when the dog drags what looks like blood across
the cracked linoleum of the cave-like kitchen, I concoct
lonely soups. I stab the acid out of Irish teabags.
This is what I am willing to admit to. I stomp snow off my fur-lined
two left boots, unspoken platitudes irrigating sunken cheeks.
The unsaid baskets of nothingness lost on those most interested.
The old virgin chastises me for living in a cold Easter sun, regaling me with
stories of imaginary passion so alien, they are meaningless. What I try to hold
onto, she excises with a serrated edge knife. The Stations of the Cross are roadmaps,
a life of hard rock and colorful and enticing poison. Still
on the fifteenth of every month I pray to forgotten female saints, that staunch the black
blood of monthly hemorrhage, find you a life partner, protect reproductive
organs from microwaves and such. My circulatory system is well muscled,
one million beats per minute like a frightened hare during hunting season.
I need the ministrations of a wise woman, a strega, to feed me hard bread soaked in mother’s milk.
Add a touch of complicity. My mother told me to never expect
a thing. For six thousand days I curated alabaster eggs that I could have laid myself. Neither blessing
nor curse, just an everyday miracle. I tease the fault line snaking
its way to the underground. I once held your hand with the reluctant blessings of our
people, sanctioned with twitch of a milky eye. Now look at us. The woman
with the long, silver hair in the market helps your wife count her change. Laughs when she
falters. You predicted this. Smoke your unfiltered cigarette, and count the days.
I kiss the essence of ground waters because it still matters where we come from. I roll the dice. The gods are either with us or within us, but not both.
The fifth chamber opens all iron and twisted ventricles. If tolerance is a lack of love, if none of our mistakes can ever be corrected, then what could anyone with any imagination ever say in our defense?
The fruit of the vine is destined to ferment on the vine anyway.
Michelle Reale is an Associate Professor at Arcadia University. She has an MFA in poetry. She is the author of five collections of poetry including the forthcoming The Marie Curie Sequence, Dancing Girl Press, 2017. She conducts ethnography in Sicily among Syrian and African refugees several times a year and blogs about some of her experiences at www.sempresicilia.wordpress.com.