The boy across the street points at me and lisps—now I know what they mean in books when they say children lisp. He wears a red and white striped t-shirt, addresses my friend who walks beside me. I ask people to please walk on my left side. It’s the eye that’s not completely dead I say. They always move over. The boy addresses my friend with her blonde hair braided at the sides of her head. The boy asks my friend—freckles on her shoulders, her forehead—a question. It’s the first day of summer and she looks like summer sun at noon, my friend. I am the fathomless white sky of winter. I fold in and in, like this cane I use. The boy asks Can she see? I flinch but say nothing. Again: Can she see? My friend says to me he’s asking if you can see. I don’t know how to speak to children this small. Their manic pop and dodge through my visual field. Their penetrating questions.
To find the right vibrations to make sound =
swallowing ice, clouds, outer space.
To articulate against a current, a watery pressure.
I should be drowning. Instead I—
Certain seams crack, billow open.
Increased occasions like this with the boy = crying more after.
I hate 1) myself 2) everyone else.
Sadness flows out of me, according to my teacher.
I imagine secreting it, like oilslick.
Diving into the river open-mouthed : recurring dream. Speaking in
synthesized voices : recurring dream. Speaking through the hole in my
neck from where my head is missing : recurring dream.
Like the way my nerves weave a fiery net. Like the way I want my psyche to be smooth like
metal on metal. Like the pain of this particular burning. Or the way this new cane tip rolls
across the ripped-up sidewalk.
A little bit, I yell across the street. In my neighborhood people close boundaries. The child
asks my friend, can she see? I don’t know how to answer. I want her to answer instead.
Added: Monday, July 21, 2014 / Khoury's poem tied for Third Place in the Split This Rock 2013 Poetry Contest. We are grateful to Mark Doty, judge of the 2013 contest. A version of this poem has since been published in “Suites for the Modern Dancer” (Sundress, 2016). Used with permission.
Jill Khoury writes on gender, disability, and how the body influences identity. She holds an MFA from The Ohio State University, edits Rogue Agent, a journal of embodied poetry and art, and teaches workshops on writing poems from the body. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Copper Nickel, Bone Bouquet, Lunch Ticket, and The Deaf Poets Society. She has two chapbooks — Borrowed Bodies (Pudding House) and Chance Operations (Paper Nautilus), and a full-length collection, Suites for the Modern Dancer (Sundress Publications). Find out more at her website.