Hands and feet come first
Reluctantly, with the sensory responsibility
Of a blind boy, he pauses
As his skin measures the size
Of the room, by the dampness
And heat, implicit in air
He speaks English, as we all do
Spicy Thai accent punctuating
The monotone cadence like sparse, leaky
Boats breaking the smooth line
Of waves that always seem to fall
He flirts in the silences
Hollows between bone and flesh and perspiration
As the contours of his hands, beating
Down my weary back as a drum
A slow, steady rhythm of pain
At my deliberate request
I imagine he is distilling my blood
Thick, obstinate blood of a woman
Flowing simultaneously to the head
And to the heart, naively believing
It would heal.
He asks my name, then my age
Youth is detectable, porous to the touch
His fingers linger, remembering a woman
By the texture of salt on her skin,
The roughness, the lack of immersion
Between water and sun-oil
I recall the negation of his eyes
Fluttering, winged lids pretending to fly
Beyond the story of a boy who does not see
The sad story of a fatalistic girl
Who does not know how to die.
Tonight I am awake in twilight’s cool sobriety
Contemplating the expanse of a moment
Discerning the octaves of silence from dreams
This moment I am dreaming, because a woman can have many lives.
This moment a woman is pretending to sleep
Her husband nuzzling her ear, his legs juxtaposed on her thighs
Soft, raspy whispers of things she does not want to hear
She murmurs a tepid, “I love you,” because he expects it.
This moment a child is crying, skin bracing the cold nitrogen
Of the atmosphere, that instant life enters her pores
Displacing amniotic warmth with dryness and indifference
And she cries, as we all do, because it hurts.
This moment a mother is also crying, her salt flowing onto plastic veins
Conducting her breath back into the dark tunnel where it all began.
Morphine numbing a somber swelling in her breast, and she cries
Because time is evaporating and her thoughts are yet unfinished.
This moment a farmer is awakening, darkness preceding
An opalescent morning; the cock is crowing and his daughter
Milking the cows; she moves on to the corn-studded landscape.
The hoe is tough, but she ploughs onward because that is her identity.
This moment a writer is obliterating words
Electronic letters dancing across a screen, visible and invisible
Between intervals, inspiration mingled with fatigue, the sweat
Spilling into her eyes, stinging, and she fears she may go blind.
This moment a woman is reminiscing the dead
Steam swirling from the hazelnut coffee he used to make
That she continues to drink with cream, allowing the haunting
To occur, because the table is empty and she is alone.
This moment is memory alive, a continuous pearl on a bracelet
Congealed salt, sweat, and spit pressured into an imperfect sphere
Situated one by one, each making possible the next
Coming full circle around a woman’s wrist.
Catherine KHN Magia is still discovering her own poetic voice. She has been published in the Michigan Quarterly Review and Lips. She has been a TV talk show host on public access television in Northern NJ. She works as a manager of marketing research for Bristol Myers Squibb Co. and currently resides in Plainsboro, NJ.