Friday, 12 April 2013

Sudden Prose Reprints: Jennifer Militello's 'Autobiography Toward a Study of the Thousand Wounds'

Today we're fortunate to have a prose poem from Jennifer Militello's new volume, Body Thesaurus, published by Tupelo Press:

Autobiography Toward a Study of the Thousand Wounds

Doctor, this is my diary. It begins with my confession to you.

I was hung before my throat could cry the rivers. I was hung like an animal and the rope had a bite: when I touch, I touch a razor of teeth, an amen on the edge of each of them. I am adrift. I can see the pier with the loose rope fallen. I can see the fog and the oars that will not last. I have eyes that are lanterns so I will not wreck. And yet I cannot steer myself toward land. I am at the end of risk. I am at the end of my fragmenting hands. I only have nerves to tell me how far. I only have nerves; the rest of me is ill. What I twist into rears toward frost. I twist into the immigrant rain. I am again at sea, made sick with floating. As it is, I am rich with different versions of myself, and I do not know an antidote for me.

I am an impossible equation proven to exist. With the ache of layers yet to peel off, made of features and a clockwork heart whose mechanism breaks as death sits, wreckage in the face, smells foul, and is blackened. Accidental fracture is a gift.

What I see is not so much a lost figure as an arch of rain, so many windows, and an expression like wool. What I see is not so much the fields of me as the silver beneath, the skeleton, its trace elements, as one falls to the hands and knees. What I see is not so much the childhood collapse or the stories the sea-branches cherish and break, or the way I move air in front of me from its delicate weave. What I see is a child’s breath at the shoulder like a thief. A chemistry of sin that earns our keep. That makes of me an enemy when the enemy is scarce.

I cannot remember my guilt, my personal plague is one of indifference: my house is built of ill dreams, a desire to do harm, the sick art of the act. The struggle is a thing I scrape free: random cloaks or shadows across my lips that keep what I say as the oath I have sworn. What I would have said terrifies the masses. What I would have said threatens with the large hand, with planets askew, with what I knew was wrong from the moment I thought it.

Doctor, there are too many nests for me. To list. To sit and see. To frequent. To invent. I count them out, sticks and rakes, ribs and rags, a fathom I can wreck. To sense. To taste. These are the prophecies where the whisperings can live. I sift them and wait. I shake them and end. I am the land. By the flesh of the world, I crush and flee. I seize and cry. I am the mind of me. I singe and crave. The nothing of me crude. I am soothed from it. 
Learn more about Militello and her work from her website, and read more by purchasing Body Thesaurus. At the time of posting, Body Thesaurus is available in the UK at Foyle's for 35% off, so take advantage while it's on!

1 comment:

Tania Hershman said...

This is enormously powerful, my first response was simply: Wow. It's longer than prose poems I have read before but this is one of those instances where I can see exactly why it is a prose poem and no other thing. Thank you, Carrie, for bringing Jennifer's work to us.