Evenings I’d find you
bent over the dining room table
like a surgeon over a disembodied angel.
Under five yellow lights
you would rearrange
the wispy wings, pin them
to the floral cotton,
the blue corduroy—
the common material our bodies might fit.
This was the beginning
of the reconstruction. You worked
with a quiet determination,
the knuckles of your long fingers
as you applied the tiny teeth
of the tracing wheel
against the delicate skin.
after your careful unpinning,
the anticipated sundering
and airy uplift—
forgive me my moments of doubt—
the mortal fabric
would lie there, yes,
bearing the marks ...
You knew in time
the dress or slacks would grow
too tight, or short,
that our days would be a succession
of stepping in and out of pants and skirts,
blouses and shirts,
of turning in the long mirrors,
lines that flatter,
cloth that carries the wearer
when brains are not enough.
Yet wanting more than that.
Despite the turtlenecks and scarves
you wear today to hide
your wrinkly neck.
One day it will all come off.
Someone will bathe our bare bodies,
perhaps with revulsion or fear.
If we’re lucky
I cannot bear to think of you this way.
Your lovely, bony body
Your dress folded over a chair.
From Luck (Parallel Press, 2000)
Used with the author's permission.