Today's poem is by Lisa Lewis

The Transformation

It had been afternoon as long as I could bear.
I folded the newspaper and laid it on the floor.
All the stories were on government appointments—
Bad news, not surprising. The accompanying photos'
Grainy smudge smeared suits and hands and faces.
You grow up with the fact of men, on TV, on the radio,
And they seem to belong there, like carvings
No one considers art. You can wrest them out
of your life if you must, but if you had to take them back,
You'd get used to it fast. They're an old habit.
If that tree in the front yard were bigger, something
About the trunk might remind you. If you spent
Enough time in that chair on the porch you might know
How they feel. I do. Unspeakable ache
In back and loin, from hardly moving and wanting
To run, or fly. Or flee. Birds, for instance, are arrogant.
They know what they can do. I hadn't read
The gardening column in the paper I'd set aside.
But it wasn't going to stop me from looking out the window
To late January and the leaves I didn't rake
And hose I didn't coil on the hook
And fluffed-out wren shrilling bill-wide answering
My canary. He lives in a cage on my dresser.
Every night I cover it with a folded sheet,
And he tucks his head into his feathers to sleep.
That afternoon-today, I mean-he was singing.
I laid the newspaper down. I had to get up
And stretch my legs. I needed to get out of the house.
I'd been reading about the nation's officials,
Thinking I understood, yet it had nothing
To do with me. First I was a fatherless baby. Then
I was a little girl who didn't like to play with children.
Then I rode horses. Then overnight, everywhere, forever—
Men. My stepfather and three stepbrothers.
Boys I dial drugs with, boys I slept with. Men, truck drivers,
Factory workers, teachers, writers, religious cultists.
A student. Then nothing, not a knock or a touch. I was safe.
But it took time not to speak modestly, in euphemisms,
Talk to titillate eunuchs in some country I never heard of,
Now racked by controversy. That was my life
All those man-years, man-hours, hard labor wishing
I could rest, stop somewhere, not see muscular backs
Twisting out of t-shirts in darkened rooms.
That stolid fish-jawed man driving through the intersection
After the light's turned red is somebody's craving
For some reason, or the thick-waisted boys
Hanging out around the up-hooded pickup on blocks—
They're somebody's life besides their own.
I needed to get out of the house. I'd been reading
The newspaper, classifieds, boring sports scores.
I stood on my feet. I passed across polished hardwood,
Someone heavy trying to be light.
The way I experience gratitude is to open my arms and walk
Through walls, and today when I tried it I stepped out of a mob,
A past of seashells, pasta shells, heel marks
On tile, and I don't know how all the men
Who'd harmed me happened to be gathered
In a room hung with plaid and brocade,
Solicitous and repelled as if it were our last week to live
And we were vomiting blood. But they were, formal
As ever, the reason I'd driven them to destruction.
I needed a laugh. So there I was, walking
Through walls, picking my way past a tapestry of skulls,
Moving faster as a stretch of dusty pavement
Opened up ahead, closing my ears to the circular song
Of my own breath and fast-drawn hope and nobody
Blocking me by accident and no terrified
Certainty I could only get so far, so slow.
There was no longing: only reproach.
I rose up off of the sofa that afternoon and walked
Through everything in my way. I wouldn't live in a house
I couldn't get out of, just that easy, and proud, too,
Like losing money night after night at the poker table
And finally winning a hand, or scoring a point
In an argument with a stranger.
I laid the newspaper on the floor and walked out
And dreamed and told everything I could
Before I had to start making it up, and that was the end
Of the sense I could make anyone understand.

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Lewis All rights reserved
from Vivisect
Western Michigan University Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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