Wednesday Feb 28

DunhamRebecca Rebecca Dunham's newest book of poetry is called The Flight Cage (Tupelo Press, 2010). Her first book, The Miniature Room, won the T.S. Eliot Prize. She teaches in the doctoral creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Her poems have appeared in FIELD, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, The Indiana Review, and AGNI.


My Life as Narrated by Another
What flies, air halved
a-hiss, metal
ringing & ringing its silver
bell – each line a flash
that strobes the mind,
a chain of arrow-
heads strung & hung about
R’s neck –
Mother is egg is swollen
to breaking. Can’t see
her feet. Can’t see R’s
toy plane, its steel arrow.
She trips to the floor, linseed-
oiled, orange squares
It is as if His metatarsal
can comb her
mind’s curled whites,
buds nested & wet –
whittling this from that,
R’s mind a split
melon cut & scooped
His fingers scratch R’s back,
deer’s teeth against tree-
bark in winter, peeling spine
bare & white & hanging
in shreds this physic of mind
Orange vial, its mass
of white clouds, how they tap,
(do I mind?) a bell-clapper, against
its throat & mine.
linseed orange flies breaking
curled finger buds
an arrow bell-white tap
claps R’s mindstrings spined
flesh flash halved
Persona: Latin for theatrical mask, from the masked Etruscan gladiator, Tomb of the Augurs, 6th c. BC
I am the mask, the face
           I wear red & serpent-
like as the leash I hold.
          My false beard & cap
peaked as the saw
          palmetto plant.
Your face: shrouded & sacked
          in rough linen, its flesh
opening beneath my dog’s
          feral teeth –
how whitely bared & ripping.
All men are cowards.
You are proof of this – your features
veiled as those of the condemned
at their execution. Don’t you see?
They fear you more than my counterfeit
face, your live flesh made mask,
stiff & fixed in rictus of death.
Blood foams.
            Hobbled by my long
looped cord, you will fall
to my feet. You always do.
It would be no fun if you didn’t
fight. You could not know
           your club is mere outline,
pencil-thin & half-erased.
At root, in the end, all you are is mask.
The living prefer disguise,
the bivalve’s hinged shell shutting
over its vulnerable flesh. But this mask
was made to consume, not unlike
the Greeks who swallowed my name
& let it slide cool down their throats
before voicing it anew.