From Winter’s Apprentice


Winter’s Apprentice I

The wind against my face takes on the shape of a face.
                                                    A ripple across the darker fathom,             
                          no sooner there than torn away.
                          And I know the deeper wound will one day surface.
                          Music will flay a layer, and then another.
                                                                 My wounds are not original.
                          They are personal. Music tells me.
                          The rain against the roof makes, as it falls,
                          a box of glass,
                                                    as I take the voice of rain indoors.
                          I should be water now, but a face keeps emerging.
                                                    My friend’s life had a shape,
                          an end.
                          It made for our contemplation a box of glass.
                          And like the earth, I took it into hiding.
                          I hoarded. I slept.
                                                                              I called it his.
*
In his final days,
             he sought an end to the untouched life.
                                                    He sought the untouched life.
             So when I found in his closet a gag ball and leather straps
             I wonder if it helped,
             who wore what and who he was when he was there.
             What, if anything, touches
                                                    an untouched problem,
             what worn performance of impotence and gall.
             What fist or drunken starlet knocking at her own locked door.
             How much artifice does it take to strip away the art,
             to peel another layer of helplessness or shame,
                                                                 now that it is naked and unreal.
             Is there a safe word we should know,
             a script,

             a hairpin to pick the vault of last night’s wish,
                                                                              with instrumental pain.

*
If I say I do not know you, it does not end our friendship.
                          Death does. But here we are.
                                       So much to read behind the mask,

                          the dark where eyes should be
                                                                 afloat the mirrors
                                                                 beneath their blankets

                                                                 still.

                          One portion of every eye is missing,
                                                    and if you squint, you see it.

                          A hole, a night, a silent room.
                                                                 The phone rings, and the news
                          says, I am so sorry.
                          In any case, it is too late.
                                                                 We are all of us too late.
*
In television light, I have no shadow.
                                                                 I will spare you my story.
             My story is this.
                                                                              In Charlottesville,
             I watched a car thrust with disjointed horror
                                                                              in reverse.
             Going back gave the act intention, obstacle, blood,
                          the kind that flags its brethren in red and black.

             The person in the car had no face.
                                                                              My story is this.

             If I could enter him, I would have none too.
                          If I could go back and enter the body of the victim.
             With disjointed horror.
                                                    If I could look my killer in the eye.
*
A killer kills himself.
                          Without exception.
                                       The eye in the eye of the departed will tell you.

                          Power is always a little suicidal.
                          Absolute power absolutely.

                                                                 It sends a face into the face
                                                                 where it melts to nothing

                                                                 like a pill.
                          To every pill, a symptom. To every symptom, pills.

                          We could be talking medication for our fear of medications
                          and call it progress.

                                                    Every serial killer knows,

                                                    you repeat a thing enough,
                                                    people will believe it.

                                                    Repeat it more, and they lose interest.

                          But a mirror does not repeat a face.
                                                    It gets older.

                          Go ahead, says the eye in the eye.
                                                                 Go on and take it, it’s yours.
*
If every wound is an eye, the blood in it is blindness.

             Thus it sees what the blinded see,
                                                    what our suffering imagines.

             It takes a child to presume a world
                                                    other than this, and I do.
             The wound is not wise. It is vigilant.
             It sees what knowledge sees, when the world is otherwise

                          afflicted.
                          Thus unknown.

             Tell me, do your wounded parts long to survive in spite of you.
                          What did you expect.
             Are they people now,
                          organisms, cells, communities of belief.
             Is the need to recoil itself a skin,

                          so when I touch it
                                                    I feel wounded.

*
I took the figures in the photograph for bones,
             until I looked a little closer. There they are

                                                    standing, uneasy
                                                    as marionettes

                                                    seen through a graph of bladed wire.

                                                    Which tells us something
                                                    of our point of view,

             how we align ourselves with the camera

                                                    this side of a fence
                                                    afloat the lens.

             If only a camera could take a picture of the whole occasion,

                                                    the gear, the tumbler,
                                                    the trigger, we might feel


                                                    less the voyeurs of another’s suffering.
                                                    Is it better to look or not

                                                    look. Do we need to ask.
                                                    If only we saw the gasp

                                                    of our own dark chamber,
                                                    the bladed shutter

                                                    the moment that it clicks.
*
A mother will ask, when is it time for a child to look,
             for the feeling of transgression
             to turn to summons,
             summons to the fence at the back of the eye.
             When are the mind-forged boundaries strong enough
                                                    to cross.
             When, if ever, can the child
                                                    in us understand
                                                    the dark context, beyond the wire,
                                                    that is the part that sees.
*
Every crisis, a crisis of the eye.
             People kill for ideas. From the word idein, to see.
             The more light freezes in photographs of bones,
                                                    the more I feel it looking back.

             Ideas would be people if they could.
                                                                              They are that afraid.

             They say people kill for no apparent reason,
                          but ideas come from somewhere, from ideas,
                          for instance, but more than that, from nothing,
                          which is the weight of an idea.
                          A bit of nothing in all we see.
             When my mother passed, her eyes remained open.
                          They appeared still at first,
                                                                 and then they started to tremor,
                          ever so slightly.
                          They ran their tiny motors on the fumes.
*
             I am a child to be scared of nothing.
             A child to be unspecific, as cruelty is, and fear can be.
                                       Kindness even.
             When bones are unspecific, they have begun the other
             journey. They are a field in winter.
             Every mother is too specific for the words she gave us.
             When she leaves, she takes them with her.
             Grief is a field like this.
             When night comes, a darkness blurs the edge of each
             silhouette until it drowns.
             Sun falls to earth in perfect silence,
                                       as if light were nothing. Like the snow.


Winter’s Apprentice IV

This is a premium subscription story. Please make a $4 donation to access the individual story or a $50 donation to access all the stories in Narrative Backstage for a period of one year.

If you are already a user, but not yet logged in, you may login here.
If you are new to Narrative, signing up is FREE and easy.