Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
My navel reminds me
of what I’ve lost. I stare at
the scar that used to hold
my other half to me: arms,
lips, limbs, lungs wandering
in wholeness. You lean over
me now, white light showing
different tones between us:
discrepancies in freckles,
colors, warmth, everything I
pretend not to see. Your eyes
are glassy reminders of our
former roundness. In them, I can-
not see my own. What I can see is
this: I was removed from my
mother once, by a doctor
who waged silver war against
the umbilical snake connecting,
hissing a dare into my
belly—remove yourself first.
See if you can survive with
the scar tissue memory. The room
was flushed in white, and everyone
smiled then, as I began to cry.
But everything in this room has
given up. The blinds slit half-frowns,
the salt resolves to be just
sodium and a glass shell
knowing nothing will shake fall
out of the clacking chatter of
spring-bent saplings. The radio
glosses over to commercial
narratives, and you tap your pen
until my lips taste ink.
Nothing can stop nothing from
continuing on like this:
radiator humming in an
unfinished corner, polished
cutlery collecting dust,
the alchemy of quiet.
When I look up, instead of space,
salt, a heater, your perpetual
rain-date grin, there’s happiness
and the promise of movement.
But blinds don’t even flutter;
They lie still like thick blue ink.
I tried to make a collection
of your sayings, but was left
with only those things you once
gloves that never fit your hands,
a dish of pennies and sand-dollars,
prayer books, seed packets, halves of
letters you did not finish—only
bundled, instead, in drawers and stacks.
When I look in your collection
of hand-mirrors, I imagine you
half-hidden, feather fanned and eyes
green and cracked. Snotgreen sea eyes,
scrotumtightening sea, eyes afraid
of no longer looking. Looking
down stairs, following a man who
sings the song I sang for you, before
you closed your eyes, swallowed words.
He kills his mother but he can’t
wear grey trousers, can’t bow to pray
over closed eyes, sunken breasts,
hands that once fit his own.
She: she calls the doctor Sir
Peter Teazle, keeps asking for
buttercups with her bread, nods
to her son and apologizes for
things he’s forgotten. He: dresses
like Hamlet, speaks in symbols, thinks
himself a servant—refracted in
lookingglass pieces, he smiles
a poet. Others take his sign
of mourning as unkemptness,
and he dares not tell the truth.
He’s grown out of Wilde and
paradoxes—out of mothers, he
leans towards fathers and a sea.
Rachael Jennings has been published in Mason's Road and she has interned with the New England Review. This is her first appearance in Offcourse.