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Projection is usually a misstep—an assumption too far from reality that we are chastened to avoid. In this collaboration between siblings, we embrace projection to see a fleeting sense of a life. The person constructed between the drawing and poem is thus burdened—those poor models!—with an imagined, hybrid life.
We slather the paint a hair thick,
let the snowstorm in for air
and fall on the bed where I lodge a condom
under its leg. I can see none of it
—where your mother’s bedpans hid, hair spilled
and blood seeped from diapers,
which knife in the drawer you clutched
as haulers ran too late and you cut the bed
into reeking squares, sundered
as milkweed silk. The sheets are fresh
and old, and our bodies we count on
—the nape, the sacrum to unlock just enough--
for what? Give us
death in digestible stories, give us the real
that clears away our bodies and reveals what is behind them,
but give us now our bodies.
I nearly get to the silence
past and the song earworms, the bevy of thought
that collides with the hissing air,
the eucalyptus in the steam, the stranger to stranger speaking
of Werner Herzog’s body of work.
The drain that collects
is by no means so flawed in its slippery maw
as I am
for not knowing what to keep and what to drown. The exigency of water
given from bodies and air augers purple organs
and carves the floor.
Pruned skin can explain everything.
That and the arid quarter-moon.
I detect in her a younger self and try to recreate
this girls’ finer cheekbones, a voice that rings, and—daring--
her hand caressing someone’s, anyone’s hair.
I fail terribly. I shut it down, closing every window
on my screen until, umbrella in grip, there is only my boss
listening to the rain. The longer she pauses, inefficient,
the more to reconsider. I have heard of the uncanny valley,
a steep drop-off point marking the space between human-like
machines and the real thing. A gap to clear. A fear
of widening our circle to what pulses we do not clock.
We want to say You appear sick my friend, but there is no opening.
Rain patter, florescent lights, scent of freshly shred paper
The Screamer, or Anti-Orpheus
It had to do with civilization, this not seeing him.
One could point to the patient ticks of horses
tied to iron on Central Park S. How they mind
the leather blinders.
I dropped a dollar to hear
anything but the seagull whine of the man’s screams.
I could say yes when he offers me
a tour of St. Patrick’s, stumbling
from the piss-stained curb barefoot across 23rd St.
but on to my destination I rove the rows
vining with pills. Maybe the culprit is the same
seated in the nerve ganglia
—starry turnips gleaned from MRI shots.
The root sips on the body and its electricity,
all electricity, is a symptom of a deeper cause
one can heal only by patience and strange incidents
in the night. I consider yes,
following the man to a garden
where he snips agrimony, lovage, and moneywort
to balm my wounds.
I pass him again and he is only screams.
A pigeon pecks his brown bag,
its small providence. When eye contact vanishes
there must be another way to approach
a thing injured—wrapped in rags, wailing--
with the right pitch of awe, the right wholeness
at parting. Instead these waxen earplugs
and drugs, the day-stories my wife and I release,
this flannel blanket goodnight.
He would tell you they beckoned. He trusted
his body to rid the 100-proof rum that night, burning
under firs. By sunrise
an electric fence has roped him. The body that is poisoned
has no name, he would tell you.
There could be no submission to charcoal for the blood
only the next night, the carnival lights
and the scruffy man operating the tilt-a-whirl who is clued in
to his condition as he shifts the lever
higher, as the friends scatter, chasing out-of-town girls
and the body’s hands, chest, knees suspend
so not to burn. The cotton candy, the fireflies are not enough.
Breath is a feral creature, clamoring.
The hydraulics vine the rides, and the hum of generators
hide something from us: palimpsest of a great fire,
the word electron that comes from amber, ancient fir,
namesake of the sun. He would tell you
the roar from the roller coaster is a counterfeit in the land
of dread and sex. When his friends make-out
they are as hopeless at touch—the rush of paint-by-numbers,
the dips and strokes of reckless hands.
If only he could lie by the trees and believe a while
in their thick bark rims, so he does, he lies
and rests a coffee cup on his belly.
He would tell you that when the coffee spills,
the body recognizes itself burning
and it is called Jerusalem.
Brandon Lewis lives with his wife and baby girl in New York. He received an MFA in poetry at George Mason University and was recently a finalist for the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Award. His poetry can be found in such journals as The Missouri Review, Spork, apt, Spinning Jenny, Salamander, and Poet Lore.
Elissa Lewis has been a practicing figurative artist for over a decade. Her works on paper were recently on exhibit at Spring Studio in Soho, New York. Her talent for collaboration landed here with Cambridge Writer’s Workshop teaching art and yoga at the Château de Verderonne. Follow along with all her creative ventures at elissajoilewis.com
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