Marlo Starr: Together But Never Touching
Because a Tripped Wire Moves
In the garden, we smashed pomegranates
by the algaed pool to smell the pink sizzle of juice
against hot concrete, the scuttle of winged beetles rustled from
the tree. The soft crack, the spilling of seeds,
pockets of fruit chewed wooden in our mouths.
—I can't keep track of my body's mutations,
a white t-shirt past my knees,
crouching to draw goats-head thorns
from my heels, so thick that they no longer bleed.
We go to church in plastic lawn chairs
set in rows, a dark room in the white heat
of summer, hymns sung off-key, a fat black fly
buzzing against the glass keeps our time.
The offering basket in mom's top drawer mingles with
unworn earrings and faulty watches, the green taste of metal
when she takes a handful of dollars.
—I learn to do my own dentistry, baby teeth
rattling in a heart-shaped Russell Stover's
box, a thwack of string against
a stubborn jaw. Half her face drooped with palsy,
sweat dripping into one eye, the twitching nerve
in her left cheek is the same in mine
when I hear the yard dogs barking, bucking at their chains.
—Silver striations across a pelvis
mark growth (like rings on a tree) but
do little to explain when her neck became
long enough for him to put his hands around
they call it double life: saying one thing
and doing another, like that first forked
tongue, an even split between fact
and falsehood. just visible, here, the faint trace,
lagged time in the photo
multiply exposed, a ghost of one life
trailing the other. and which life is the true one?
which the original? an excess of quivering strands,
silver, flattened to one.
they call it brainwashing, those who
mistake the mind for static like space,
to be emptied and filled, those with eyes
untrained to the brain's fecundity.
threads made by more gossamer
threads, the shimmering wall
teeming ant eggs, bursting,
cells dividing, the hundred million
precariously stacked, doors open
to other doors, words revise,
rewrite, eclipse, erase, relapse, omit, emit,
hang together, fall apart, to make not-fact fact,
the winding arithmetic that proves
two plus two is five
and makes no mean yes
but still cannot forget
the order of operations
required to fill the gaps
between versions of a truth
and so holds both, believes both,
pledges yes and feels the no sliding
in the inside of her mouth
and shouts louder and sheds tears
to dilute the sound, to wash it out
but the brain does not wash, it frays
and splinters, a heat that divides and melts
together again until no distance exists
between yes and no, no and yes.
they call it conversion, they call it crossing over,
as though two sides can remain
in the same space,
but never touching.
Marlo Starr is an English PhD student living in Atlanta. Her writing has previously appeared in The Atlas Review and Monkeybicycle.