On winter’s long red-eye out of Anchorage, small lamps
near the floor made
a grainy blurry everything, which meant
awake, then almost, then heads slipping back
or to the side, mouths jarred open.
There are words
bodies vanish to–curved, slumped, relaxed, released.
And a sound, not the underwater lament of the whale, not its
distant me to you, don’t even imagine.
I heard no sad rattle
from the human throat, only the loose tic and tic of it, seats 3A
to 10C, at last the whole cabin caught
in night’s breathing, a dark sandpaper at work, stopped,
to start again.
The fact is I walked through an underworld, that aisle–
I was up, had to–and saw in the dim
not-yet-dawn the arms
and legs of Shiloh and Gettysburg flung
every which way.
Then past that easy horrific–
those strangers merely out, gone out,
curled to each other: love
in the abstract, love
how it never comes on purpose,
no one arranging a face to please or to frighten
into love, just a simple forgetting who
is who and if ever. Like children don’t know the most
troubling thing about themselves, won’t
for years. Or like the dead who could, but can’t tell you.
For once I stared everyone right
in the face like it was
my shroud, and my leaving. I keep thinking like.
But my same nothing at all had so little
to do with it, that
one time my grandmother didn’t say
where we walked, took,
I was taken, thrust forward to meet the old
blind woman, her hands to find
me in that child, the great length and breadth of her bent
as if to some odd-angled stone on a beach
so foreign, so much a place I’d never go, her barest
touch on my cheek coming
such a long way,
to my chin and lips, the ridge of my nose, my
closed eyes. I opened them
to her face. Most private part of the body now, hugely
calm, the kind that suspends
and lets go, her eyes
blue in their milky drift regardless, looking
not anywhere or straight into, this–
no end to it, flying over a continent of
ice and sleep and ruin and light.
from the author’s book, Cadaver, Speak (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
Marianne Boruch’s 8th book of poems—Cadaver, Speak—is just out from Copper Canyon Press (2014) and includes the poem “Face” posted here, and her memoir, The Glimpse Traveler, was published in 2011 by IU Press. She founded the MFA Program at Purdue University in West Lafayette where she continues to teach.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!