Gretchen E. Henderson
Flares seed rains. Fires, floods. More fires and floods—no matter, it seems. Seasonal cycles persist, as bodies swarm at ocean’s edge. Irrigating ducts make this arid basin bloom. The fittest survive thanks to migrant fingers. The forecast boasts infernal sunshine for dauntless—
Wait: nothing is hauntless as it seems, like Thompson understood: he couldn’t pluck a flower without troubling a star.i All presumes to spring from a garden,
Edenic in proportions but as elusive, leading me to beseech Fiacre (leaning on his spade) and Alto (tapping his crosier to surge springs). Saints aside: Where rest seeds of my dream, devolving? Like Daphne or Hyacinth, or the seasoned shapes of Le Printemps, L’Eté, L’Automne, and L’Hiver?ii Such chance for change winds past paths of stones, revealing a moon-shaped _____.
a. adore, b. carnivore, c. door, d. Gore, e. roar, f. sore, g. your . . .
Breast, hip, eye: more than eat, “we are what we treat.” Implanted like gardens, rife with deflowerings. Beyond notions (of the Black Prince and Duke of Marlborough, when tulips ruled the world, with dahlias worthy of diamonds), innuendos bud within entendres. The crutch of the crotch (i.e., where tree branches join), like The Tatler coyly told his gardener friends about “a Chimney Sweeper and a Painted Lady in the same bed.” Bodies evolve with phases of phrases—
Beyond time, out of rime: I hew emotions down to motions. Marveling (at history, call it mystery, even misery), I thumb through florilegia and leafy legends: as Earth morphs from a mother of bones-turned-to-stones . . . and Cuvier claims to conjure a skeleton from a tooth . . . Adam’s rib rouses Locke’s “little Finger” . . . hip bone connected to the knee . . . even mentalities shock, before electricity (when frayed fennel, brain-shaped walnuts & tongued leaves were thought to sprout hair, heal heads & mouths . . .) Here, humors supplant humours (blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile) calcifying, until Shubin exclaims: “where once I had seen only rock, now I was seeing little bits and pieces of fossil everywhere.”iv Stacked stones; weathered bones. To get to my point:
Do you want me, Green?v
(There, it’s said:) The question is the crux. To implicate my proposition, the decision shifts, weighing (us) in the balance. What will the future forgive? As flares seed storms and erode more shore, rain slips through my fingers that grope, forfeiting my foothold, to pluck or protect: “The weight of a petal has changed the face of the world and made it _____.”vi
a. bowers, b. cower, c. dour, d. flowers, e. glower, f. hours, g. ours . . .
iFrancis Thompson, “The Mistress of Vision (XXII),” Poems: Works of Francis Thompson, vol. II (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2003) 9.
iiSeries of portrait paintings by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593), named for the four seasons.
iiiJoseph Addison, The Tatler and The Guardian, ed. George Washington Greene (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1876) 220. The Chimney Sweeper and Painted Lady refer to flowers. In the wings, a real sweeper weeps: “because I am happy, & dance & sing, / They think they have done me no injury: / And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King / Who make up a heaven of our misery.” (William Blake, “The Chimney Sweeper,” lines 9-12, The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman and Harold Bloom (New York: Anchor, 1988) 23.)
ivNeil Shubin, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (New York: Pantheon, 2008) 65.
vAdapted from the first line of Federico García Lorca’s poem, “Romance sonámbulo”: “Verde que te quiero,” or “Green, I want you green.” In Touch, Josip Josipovici writes: “The adjective ‘green’, descriptive of the new shoot, and the verb ‘to turn’, implying spiritual as well as mental suppleness, are the key words in the canticle of Purgatory . . . Tornare is linked in Dante’s poem not only to verde but also to amore.” (New Haven: Yale UP, 1996, 38.)
viLoren C. Eiseley, “How Flowers Changed the World,” The Star Thrower (New York: Harcourt, 1979) 75.
Lend me your reaching, grasping, handling this severed
pointing at our own against our hearts “nature’s infinite book of
secrecy” a language of clasping reduced to short studied by
graphologists as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my
(which came first?) first- knowledge in Neolithic cave paintings Red
, sight-read mudras, palmistry, cheiromancy pulling stops, pressing
“the innocence of ” my writing (limping limb: harbinger)
artist of the body “You open your and satisfy desire” I, too,
shadow fingers: locked in a fluttering: the sound of one
at the root of binding, being unbound on the other , get all s on deck,
in order not to be short- -washing, -fasting, -clasping like
Lavinia holds a severed in her tongueless mouth Claddagh bares a heart
-to-mouth self-autopsy, self-anatomy articulating further:
joint by joint (pray or prey?) Into Thy a slave cuts off
her to fling mastery of mani-pulation prosthesis (“to put before”)
“Let no one deem me a poor weak woman who sits with folded . . .”
a(nta)gonist (prot)agonizing skin pretends to be impervious squeeze
of the organum organorum (“organ of organs”) to grasp what seems
too heavy-ed to be written, held in no way to hold onto—
lacking limbs, (she) survives (you) dispossessed (I)
attribute worth to “my , and grasp” resistance &
release drawing another until they burst out too
innately tied to be claw, horn, hoof reading the palm of
that by which we call another name would smell “like a in the
margine of a Booke” (manicles and bishop’s fists vie) by our
we can aske a question “speaks to the brain as surely as the brain speaks to”
pain in one , lump of sound groping, shaping, caressing
bearing it out there in our bodies amore, more, ore, re, e a voice
transforms Rose is eros is arrow sis sorrow say “In the Beginning”
undertaking in all manners of speaking Noli me tangere “the little Finger
would be the Person” copying & illuminating & binding “transient
hieroglyphs” (i.e., gestures) riddled like oracle bones sleights of
disarmed by swarming Mit ale zibn finger (“Self-Portrait with
Seven Fingers”) inscribed on the tongue touché, touchstone,
touch-and-go, lose touch disappear into the telling a series of
gestures capture the future as much lying as seeking
flight decorating margins with more ands, sands, brands manu-
mitting, mani-festing, mani- “sowl is in their fingers end” kept on
, growing out of “mine own which I could never read nor discover in
another” cued by the that rocked the cradle too hard, breaking rules and
a body, deforming (“the . . . hath . . . proved its own Biographer”) if only
to raise a conventionally extended forefinger to draw attention to what comes next:i
i Exhibit Z is indebted to varied sources, particularly fragments from other Exhibits (“A, B, C, and the rest”) in the collection-in-progress, Galerie de Difformité. With deference to da Vinci: “If the sound is in ‘m’ and the listener in ‘n,’ the sound will be believed to be in ‘s’ if the court is enclosed at least on 3 sides against the listener.” Analogy may be made with Galerie de Difformité: if a sound is made in one Exhibit while Gentle Reader resides in another, (s)he may seek out additional Exhibits to coordinate the orchestrations. For further reading in this manner, see selections in Double Room, New American Writing, Black Warrior Review, Mantis: a journal of poetry and translation, Notre Dame Review, Caketrain, The Laurel Review, Denver Quarterly, Broadsided, Witness, and elsewhere. Da Vinci’s words come from Emanuel Winternitz, ed., Leonardo da Vinci as a Musician (New Haven: Yale UP, 1982) 119.