The Amber Brooch
It's true that there are tears in things--
for instance, the brooch I bring
back from Kraków, which pricks
my fingertip the first time that I fix
it to my shirt.
And later, when I touch the clasp, my finger hurts
again. Some pains return.
Some tears turn
sepia with age, stubborn as the Baltic
or the resin dragonfly, an insect
that summons flight
in the very shape of its body. It lights
on my collar as if to wait
for breezes near the shore and hesitates,
the way I do, each time my hand remembers reaching
past garnets red as bee stings
to sort through amber at the vendor's booth.
In Poland, I held the proof
that there's an elegy in every hammered hinge and catch,
the lacy filigree, the closure that latches
like an entrance
to a tiny room, beauty and balance
sharpened to a point, the silver pin,
which leaves a spot of blood where it has been.
A Brief Ontology of Guilt
No pill could numb the ache
that kept my grandmother awake
each night, the gray fingers
of insomnia lingering
like a dybbuk's hand against her cheek.
I remember weeks
my mother paced the hall,
hammering the ashwood floor,
the sound of slammed and opened drawers
while she looked. . .for what?
A box of bleached letters, a silver locket
clasping pictures of the dead,
their faces smudged, their heads
tiny as stars seen through a telescope.
What did she hope
to find? And I--tattooed inside
my dreams, choking on cyanide--
what use were my night terrors?
In that house speech was rarer
even than relief from pain. We paled with shock,
joints like cracked limestone, knees locked
at acute angles, toes turned
to marble claws. Trauma, a wound burned
in the body
or written there as though we three
were parchment. Even morning's yellow
sickened into jaundice, white
paint reflecting light,
almost medicinal though not
a cure for silence, our eyes bloodshot
with grains of sleep, our skin
translucent as a lampshade, paper-thin.
Survivors never tell their progeny--
We are always already
in the hinterlands,
always already the Pale
of Settlement, always the wailing
widow at her husband's grave
or else there is no grave,
no headstone where he died, and we are searching
through the birches
for a sign.
We are always resigned
to be the mountain made of shoes,
always the everlasting bruise
of magic numbers, always
the prophets of our own blazing,
our self-consuming star. We are
and always were the puckered scar
that never disappears
beneath the skin. Or does it reappear
each time we think it almost gone,
rising to the surface like a stone
that will not sink for all its heaviness?
We are always already dressed
for our own funeral march.
Look how our bodies lurch
as though still traveling on the train.
We are always already trained
to speak and never speak
of it, to never speak obliquely
as a curving track,
and never turn our bodies to look back.
|Jane Sutherland: I choose subjects that I cherish, or that spring from deep rooted feelings, or that come to me intuitively--dogs, roses, cranes, an iconic work of sculpture; and I concentrate on the details and slightest disparities in color, tone and textures in order to show how extraordinary are things we think we know and take for granted. The process of painting for me is connected to the physical properties of the subject as well as to its meanings, associations, and memories.|