Poetry from NER 43.1 (2022)
a radiologic procedure to investigate the shape of the uterine cavity
and the patency of the fallopian tubes
In ancient Rome, a haruspex didn’t see the future
in the viscera of the sacrifice, just the mood of the gods,
their disposition. Even then, in the prediction,
a little wiggle room. In the room, the machine, maneuverable
from the ceiling, small sink. No place for my clothes. Sacrifice
tableau too boring for a painting. The liver we know
was of particular interest, the liver they thought
the maker of blood, the maker of life itself.
I bled through the napkin put there to be bled on.
The gynecologist showed up in her lead apron.
How we know what we know we owe to the bronze
livers recovered with their diagrams intact. That recover
means to find or get better rather than hide or upholster
seems a kind of test. My uterus, a knocked-out tooth
of dark dye on the x-ray. My good fortune
to be born in this era of divination, all my insides
still on my inside. I was taught in school the fundus
was the roof of the womb, though in any house, any hollow
organ, it’s just the part farthest from the opening.
The eye has one. The stomach. The sky
you might say is a blue ceiling and below,
doors to this world open along with shiny black exits,
unholstered. Flag ceaselessly half-mast, new mass
shooting, old mass shooting. What good is it
to grope hopefully into the future? No one will recover
my x-rays from the earth. They’re behind my patient
portal, password-protected entrance whose virtual cathedral
stretches back and back, but cannot be
stepped into. As with the air
above my home, there are limits to the ownership
of my prospects. The wide straight line of the freeway
sparks an expansive mindset. Exquisite fruit
on a package with the lesser thing enclosed.
Marketing, a failed CIA plot to inoculate
against letdown. I once thought a life was like an odd object
you inched out of a lake, knowing little by little more
what kind of thing you had, as I did
from the cheap motorboat, fishing up twisted
lumber mill rejects, propellers, or cattle skeletons.
But once it was clear what it was, it was easy
to let it slide back in. You can see why
I’m in need of a new thought. In need of something
insurance refuses to cover. The Statue of Liberty
quivers in a foreground conjured by the Magic Eye book
in the clinic waiting room. Like any promise
departing from a pattern, even a small softening
of focus breaks it. Twitch away to the coverage
—or is it recoverage, or recovering—of another
shooting. Phone footage and shouting. Page regressing
to its cryptic scheme of flag fragments. The original appeal
of Magic Eye wasin the disbelief in anything there
to see. My organs packed between the crescent moons
of my hips on the screen. One-room house with a roof.
The dye was to bloom out like smoke from two chimneys.
The present kept falling all around like rain, like questions
in a lengthy poll on my user experience
of this world, whether it was worth it
to cut free a door painted shut. Shouting and blood
in the footage, too much to let in. The mood of the gods
was sought via birds and via entrails. Outcomes hiding there
like shapes in another dimension a special technique
—half crossing of the eyes—calls into being.
The good of this method, of any method
of divination, is how it spares one
the act of looking
at what has been hauled, dripping, into the light.
The lake I’m remembering is a reservoir
made by the Army Corps of Engineers
who choked a river for its power. It holds its own moon
and everything anyone throws in. American museum
in the depths, unvisitable. It’s just as well. After a while
it must get easier to leave a door shut. To soften
all attention. I never made a promise
to this place. Let the nation stay
in its coverlet of myth. The water
upholstered in sky.