Poetry- Nadia Wolnisty

On “Self-Portrait” by Kay Sage

To be a woman is like this now.
Scrub it off as if it were a stain—
all traces of your face.
Use bleach if you must or dish soap
if you have time to scrub.
You’ll know when to stop.

The lattice work where your nose
used to be won’t hang vines or
go inside pianos. The cloth
won’t swaddle any infants
or stifle any urges.

You are no longer meat dumpling,
no pleasant little pouch.
You are sad machine.
Do you remember the toy store
you went to as a kid?
One day, the Jack-in-the-Box
turned inside out when jerked
too fast, too far. All springs and
splay. This is you now.

And yet without eyes and mouth
and nose, you are not beyond reproach.
You thought machine indelible,
but they are saying you’re mid-twitch.
A woman should not shudder in fear or orgasm.
A woman with or without a face shouldn’t move.
The only good victim is a corpse.

On “The Upper Limit of the Sky” by Kay Sage

Here, you can see what love is.
The prosaic is far below. There
are no bills to pay, no eggs to carry,
and no diversions.
Trifurcated and before you,
you must make a choice.

The first is a yellow
and a fleeing. How your
lover is like coattails,
their body just out of reach.
The things you can do to
fruit when no one is looking.
The bright melon a stand-in
for real flesh and underwear.

The middle is a hinge
that doesn’t go anywhere.
When folded in half, a body
becomes so solid, it no longer
feels corporeal. Is that
what you thought the first
time I folded for you
on your bed? I hope
you didn’t feel absence,
feel hole. I am not a sack
of meat; nothing leaks.
I am as certain as marble.

The third is a city. It goes
higher than the upper
limit of the sky. Is
this a place we can walk
together, holding hands?
Windowless and too high for pigment,
life goes watercolor.
It can wash away.

I do not know which one
is best. Love without touch,
touch without bodies, bodies
without life. Lover, all I want
is to write letters and get lost in
grocery stores. My heart
is not a bird but a frog. All I know is,
my favorite safe word is you.

About the contributor

Nadia Wolnisty's tribute to the impressionist Kay Sage

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