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The Picture of the Spirit

—i.m. Barbara Guest

Clarify now that “you,” “she,” “I” do not know to stand except at an interchange. The pronoun is the inner ear by which the gaze balances. To effect removal is to make the image fall. Make the spirit, with her eros trailing her, drape us and make us unsteady, her fluid gown as one, unbalancing the parts we once were.

Say it, then. 
The image provokes, and how it is awkward. 

A hand came with its mouth
to paint verity


the slick oil paint glowed

to show them joining in ether.

Slowly the hand turns palm up

and she bends to it

absorbed into

its tint— 

color’s creases

and whorls.

Seen that way, we spy upon what we look at. Profound machinery. The assault on the spirit’s mechanism does not to redeem but return. “I am going away” and “I am coming back”: both present tense. Dizzy.

And so I witness
to the two pronouns. “She” and “she.” “I” and
whom. Wedded to each
other. The light backlit them
even as I carried this ether forward
and fumbled through the blur. The union
was the frame
that held the image which shed itself
into light readily.

Here, I record your fingerprint. Maze. Flower of tight lines. Faith is of the

contracting world. The
way out has its
own voice, warm
and pink. Did
I know what
I might pray for? Did
the finger induce its 
pattern to correspond

But the mouth cannot describe it so readily, this pressure from behind, shoved to move toward. The hand permeating the image plays at puppetry, so it thinks, but it’s the force of the image that enters the hand, the narrow suffusion of hand upon hand in unknown space.

Had you the ability
to waver
in desire
like a portion
of light
lifted from
its fuel. 
Irked by the body
she did not need, 
she put the 
burning thing
at the dividing
line that knew
to guard it, 
to burn it
straight down
to its hesitation.

I did dare to look directly—when I was young, untried. A contraction from deep within aligned my spine with my line of sight. She was not benevolent; as the image has a purpose, benevolence was not it. She could say what I could hear. So I fell and with me her tenderness, aligned. And so I clutched it to me. 

Elizabeth Robinson is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection Being Modernists Together (Solid Objects) and Thirst & Surfeit (Threadsuns Press).