our lady of perpetual contusions
we couldn’t figure out what she saw in him:
those hands that hung loose from thick arms,
huge but soft, like loaves of bread but heavy
like something unsaid and sometimes
you’d see them catch and lock in fists
when he looked at her too long, got caught.
and the way he looked at her—
like a man held two inches under
the water’s surface. trouble.
she was maybe lonely, no matter
how busy we kept her, that mind of hers
off fishing, her body sipping coffee
or under a hair dryer or trying on shoes
while her mind floated on hazardous currents
bobbing and drifting downstream.
so they married. a beautiful cake, sugar roses
and ribbons that flowed down the columns.
on top, a bell, a pair of birds.
we watched her reflexes improve.
sometimes her eyes weren’t eyes
but shadows, fast shadows outrunning
what might be a memory. her arms
broke out in fingerprints, every day
she grew more opaque. eight years later
when whatever was in him gave out,
the burial shocked her back to earth, to us.
what was it, what of him was love we had to know.
his hands, her voice sank low, oh, those hands of his.
by Nielle Norton Buswell
from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 18, July 2010
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim