E M E R G I N G P O E T S E R I E S
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Directions for a Zinc Plate Etching
Now, a word on timing:
best time to balance eggs
on their small ends.
Take a zinc plate wide as an open book.
On each side sketch an egg. Balance them.
Have one hatch a gibbous moon,
the other, a woman's head.
Shape her body as its own chaise longue.
Lean her on an elbow
right-angle snug to one corner.
Leave her moonbathing.
It's needle time.
Start above the subject
in the space we'll call sky.
First strokes are the worst,
but, say, one cheek escapes slashing.
Lift the subject's far thigh to a knee
you bend at the plate's dead center.
Now scar her toes.
Scribble the rest to wait
for the bite of acid
to trace all you scrape bare.
Be warned: the subject wants to live
You must take control and draw the line.
The equator is a useful line
for dividing the right hemisphere
from the wrong.
Make sure the needle follows the intent
and all the lines of the sketch.
Make sure the plate is ready for the acid
to gouge each note in its allotted groove.
Take a hard look.
Your mistake was drawing a mouth—
Yet you left off ears.
She's deaf to all you say.
the slow float
then the membrane
then the wall beyond
trying these legs
finding them insubstantial
learning the need to scream
without finding a voice
voice shaping resin
crumbs and curls
I am here!
I want to live!
leave me woman
to my raised knee—
it shall double
as a mountain's summit
am I an inkblot
doubled at the fold?
a woman before her mirror?
or conjoined twins—
one moonscape, one flesh,
joined at summit-knee?
these first gouges—
see how each leans
more moonward than the last?
tides do that—not wounds—
it was water—rain!—
even when you lacked
the faith to feel it
I name you partner—
have I told you
how gently you sign?
how clear? how sure?
I have heard his lecture many times
and have stopped apologizing.
I can accept this much—
yolk, chalaza, even shell.
Anne Boleyn paid extra for a clean axe.
No one should blame the artist
for that queen's extra finger and nipple.
His is the Pain Method.
How often have I been the one
beneath the thin shield of zinc?
When did I ever wait for her
to give directions?
He speaks of subject, of equinox.
I will trust the solstice, the elliptical.
I hear the scribbles at her foot
I will take a soft look—
I will squint, blurring distinctions.
I will follow the whole path
without getting lost
in the forest of detail
You are why his sketch had to fail.
No!—it gave her the voice to guide me.
Surely you are why
the listening fell to me,
why the tools of our healing
crept dumb to my hand.
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