Magazine article The Nation

Before the Argument

Magazine article The Nation

Before the Argument

Article excerpt

I'm afraid to own a Body---

I'm afraid to own a Soul--

it's time: you push your bike back up the hill

past the bed of trillium, past roses tapping on a stone

porch, jostling like heat. Past wind noise: a breaking

crest of wave. You push to before you wanted to be pure,

unnamable shape: not straw, not star, not foot.

To before you thought you were something no eye

could follow--arabesque of bee, a body turned glass.

Past the first disappointment: Knock, knock. Who's there?

No body--a door ajar. Before she left through a funnel

of light, shadow straggling. And what did words do? Believe

me. She'll be back. Before the first lie and the second...

We thought the way to save lives was to win the war.

Boys played doctor in the lane, needling hairpins into flimsy

latches that clasped tool sheds tight. The lane: all dust

and gravel, insolence and glint on the starched cotton

of a summer afternoon. Sorry girls. It's serious.

You'll have to pull your pants down. And before ruby

slits, thin as rivers on a map, crossed your first love's wrists,

blood seeping through the fine gullets, unlikely place of exit.

And what you'd wanted to say was this: there was always another

story, the one in which you told him you loved only him.

Past the numbered houses; the numbered arms,

the Yiddish, the Polish, past all the survivors

who grew on you. You understand, the concentration camp

experience is nothing that endears you to people. …

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