Captain of the shoelace, captain of the fingernail, captain of the pocket, captain of the approximate and animated and optic, captain of the plain, the sweat, the upright, captain of the wind knocked out, the atoms in my hand like balled fire, balled wax burning like a candle in my self, my skin had its limits, my head ached. I aged. I raged at that, though there was nothing I could do. I learned to recognize soon and call its bluff. It was never enough, it was often at my door. The core of me bloomed, it would be useless before I knew, a stain at the collar, a fray at the cuff. I drank my share of the small things we thought were impossible. I did and did. My mind called me new. All else could be said to be otherwise. A sleek chair. The objects fade as we do not examine them. The screens grow. Existing is an old detail. Here, we need not be anywhere. We can be anything we poke and mold and make not from clay but from x’s and o’s.
You: the color of clay.
Naked as a vase, with curves
soft and square at once. Voice
a parchment, its dust wraps and
gem stones embedded in the breast,
in the dark cave of the rib cage,
in the turban of the chest. Hands
like linen strips, hieroglyphs, spider
through their maze of sun-baked bricks.
Our organs know their forms of preservation,
our organs have their canopic place.
Weigh my heart against a clock, a seed;
eternity will tip the scales. Our shabti slaves
row amulets to dreams until we find
their water in the air. The ear has its lobe,
the nose has its ring, the brain
has a zipper we must not unlace.
The lip has a sing to it, a whisper
of wine or alabaster far from the grave.
In their air-tight chamber, brush of natron,
dip of amber, desiccation sintering to glaze.
Previously published in The Pact (Tuplelo Press)
Jennifer Militello is the author of The Pact (Tupelo Press/Shearsman Books, 2021), called “emotionally resonant” by Publishers Weekly and “stunningly original” by Green Mountains Review, and the memoir Knock Wood, winner of the Dzanc Nonfiction Prize (Dzanc Books, 2019), as well as four previous collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and Poetry. She teaches in the MFA program at New England College.