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Two Portraits
Map Drawn from Memory by My Brother

This is the same archaic vista as the next with the inside and outside of the city reversed. A draft on the wall shows houses floating on water: “Water,” he says, “makes it comprehensible to us.” A dog barking separates the home from its reflection; a doubling of variables builds a horizon for the city; the city is a portrait of a girl’s head, big as a billboard face. “It’s a quotation,” he says. See the heat in my mouth as I say his name written large? Behind this the trees faintly fray; hemispheres fall away. In a field of gravitational anomalies, a woman is dying of a disease from the Middle Ages. He takes a legend literally: The lantern fly’s false eyes are the crocodile’s. To say animals are decoration is to say they attract mates. To say they are armor is not to see the hungry bird turn quick and away. An early hill-sign takes the form of a profile he thinks is his own but it isn’t only: Hundreds of arches carry a marbling, the clouds inside her body arrange themselves. What key are we in? “Once we get there the relief itself—qua relief—must be reinterpreted,” he says. I am afraid to follow one of its false escapes: Nobody could stand roadside with six run-over rabbits in that heat; nobody could hold herself that small. Have you noticed how everything comes in pairs? Even on the body he has. He has a face. Even the landscape painting gives clues on hiding from the simplest eye. 


Were you a child?

I am the same all over: My soles’ cracks hold the same lashing and tumbling worms my eyebrows do. The whipworms blossoming in my rectum are the original ecstasies of mosquito bites. The pioneering and proverbial maggots-in-the-marrow are my mirrors. My head in front of this unshaded lamp is my areola—itself, a map of the universe.

What do you make of gardens?

A girl shedding crystal tears holding the perfect image of skyscrapers. Keeping thousands of tiny blue bees in my right arm: the lightness of their stinging, the weight of their frenzy. Their humidity made my hair curl; I had the arm hair of an old man. Their softness whispered me to sleep. In the days I had sleep! Now the scalp blusters and I must tell it to the knee. The knee gurgles: Write it down, tell it to the eye, to the under-tongue’s pig-tailed pattern. Ventriloquism.

What do you do while the world sleeps?

All day I make the faces of colored lights—asparkle with lice here, acrackle with red burners of warts there—and pretend I am leaving my pains, walking away from their house, whistling while I go, gladly until they are a faint dazzle of salt. One might lose me, hiding in some smoky heap, dressed up as an arrow, assuming the vein of tingle. The mite-shaped ache comes to the surface. My tongue pokes the sore gap so the fire’s high-pitching. There is scarcely any room for more; in every telephone there are ten million tones. Things sighing hold me to them.

What does your voice sound like?

Crawlers, darters, clingers in my mouth alone sing not at all together; poor, bare forked animals and desquamation tribes. In the photograph of tooth life, you may think you see square lawns, pastel houses from the air. Boiling mouth means cultivating feet, as they say. The same baritone pain of the jiggers or chiggers in my foot seem a hairy caviar, amber-like blisters. Red puckered Os are cartoon lip-prints all over my foot; their one joke is a kissing noise on the floor when I walk.

Where is the story coming from? Is it yours to say? 

If my strand today drifts on water, it becomes fish; if on land, alighted flies. Their voices hang from my body for seconds before I can’t remember them.

Will there be a gift for you at the end of the day? 

Nymphs of a tongue worm I travelled to Sudan to gather. To this day the marrara eggs find light in my nasal drippings: radiant. In Thailand, three small metallic moths perched on the perimeter of my eye to nurse tears. What did I want with tears? Little sneezes in my ears, the premonition of allergy. Though it’s not a sensation I could carry.

Will the landscape grow older with you?

My pet is the phantom breast, as it grows and gives back an echo tuned and turned to its origin. A fist-tight weight, a rock shimmering with its own fluted flows. And over a chevron scar, the phantom breast more often reached for, holding the sheet parallel. So as I sleep, it becomes a bird. A bird throwing itself at human faces.

What do you remember for?

Now the stone-cutters chime in, the bell-tollers. Cicadas pick the cotton out of my eyes, and the twines of going-green enrapt wrap fingers. I will amuse myself with their clamor and heat (I will take no volunteers, no cheerful understanders). When the mind’s able to melt the ice of bodybodybody, this last subterfuge will be a child’s jar of simple round worms. An eye worthy of the wandering nematode, loa loa. Don’t I have the biggest cornea you’ve ever seen? A retina talented enough to track a fly refracting infection.

Christine Hume is the author of three books, including Shot (Counterpath), and three chapbooks, Lullaby: Speculations on the First Active Sense (Ugly Duckling), Hum (Dikembe), and Ventifacts (Omnidawn). She teaches at Eastern Michigan University.