Online Exclusive

Articulate Body
That this is binding.
                        That in the this
                                    lies nearness
            and so
                        the voice that bends.
That the bend.
            The bend that releases,
                                                releasing us into bond.

That the bind, that the bend. Hold.

Hold the banded riot, its loosened face

            Is this land
            On which we stand?
            Is it dust that sifts
            When we list?
            What wends through
            And leaves us
            Lidless, boundless—
            What household wind?

That goodness meets us.
                                    That it widens
            like a hand to a span, greets
                                                with sky-fallen wing
to feather our heads
                                    in commonness.

That there are many kinds
            of kindness. That each
                                    kindles the breath
to a felt flame, burns
            the bone-house down
                                                to a fingered soot.

That the blood. That the breath. That the bone. That the bit.

That tenderness is a meat
                        cut with salt.
                                             That we sleep in the waves
                                    of its woman blood,
                                                            wake and walk
            from one tenderness
                                                into another
and find final sleep
                        curled in seabed rock:
                                                            a leaf’s imprint—
            simple, imperfect, unblown.

                         All those days
                         I lay like dew on grass
                         Thieved the dear
                         And held for cheap the glad.
                         All those nights
                         I woke with quick in fright
                         Gazed the sheer
                         And inked its quake on white.
                         All that pealed
                         Called out and asked
                         Stays its eye behind this mask.

That I turned, that the wind blew my hair in two halves and smarted my face, that I turned and saw, that I turned and judged—what?—but my own turning—what?—but myself looking out. That I knew—is it knowing to describe what we recognize as if by instinct but nowhere perceive?—that I knew I had arrived at a middleness in life. That the middle did not measure itself out into equal parts behind and before me but marked the standstill in a turning point where there is nothing to show for oneself, nothing to prove of oneself but turn and face forward, but turn and face backward and watch the years mist into my abstracted gaze. That my gaze lensed each moment until it became the rock on which I stood, until it became the rock from which I fell. That I stood and gazed, that I fell and gazed. That I gazed at a field of grasses rising and falling with the wind into a neat wave, that the wave rose and fell to a field, that the field folded the past and present, folded into a future wave, that the wave unfolded into a field where all moments erase themselves to a middleness. Middleness everywhere. That even the end would be like this. That even the beginning had been like this. Middleness everywhere. That I stood amidst the folding and unfolding a mere crease ironed into the horizon by the heat of day. That I looked down at the ground to steady me—no, not the ground but a proscenium free entirely of props, a space subtracted from space and arched over by blue sky. That I looked down and saw no not space, no not ground, but foam, sands, sea waves churning around my ankles like the strong confusion in any manhood. That I leaned like a tree in search of a placeless center, that I knew in the way that all knowing intimates itself by coming close, closer, then slipping away. That it was not the light on the waters that flowed lubric but the shifting shards of my face. That middleness unmanned me, unnamed me, gripped me by the ankles with groundless empathy. That all this time I had held onto dried beans, salt, a fist of stones. That in the cares that trouble the sleep lie the care that cures. That I had delayed and deliberated indiscriminate love. That yet I breathed. That yet I stood. That I looked up and saw a hawk gliding back and forth, back and forth like a slurred note that hung in my throat, hung in the middleness that everywhere unfastened air.

                                    To what unfastening love fastens me
                                    That, releasing me as other,
                                    In otherness binds me as key
                                    To what unfastening? Love fastens me
                                    To debt and vows to own me free
                                    Of heat and sweat, earth touched with ether.
                                    To what unfastening love fastens. Me
                                    That releasing. Me as other.

            That we lay hot
with dying, that
                        all through its coming on
we stared at a sky
                        raked thick with clouds.

That death measures out
                                    the immeasurable—sands
            fused to a melted stream,
                                                the minutes
hardening to a glass pane
                        against whose cool
            we lean our heads and watch clouds
                                                            unbutton to rain.

That we finger the one
                                    pock in the glass
            the way eyes in a mirror
                                                settle on error, a reflection
clutched in false light and swallowed
                                    like a small scandal.

That what we wanted to consume
                        was not error but
                                                unimpeachable love.

That each time we bit through
                        its furred skin our teeth met
                                    grooved stone.

That the stone lay
                                    not at the fruit’s heart
                        but ours
               and so weighed down
                                    our best intentions.

That love like death
                        pairs us
            to air, to the hum leaving
                                    any flower.

That it names
                        indifferent faith, an
                                    and and and and and
            so much
                                    beyond bounds
we fall through
                        its openness—body
            clothed in body, addressed and returned

That like love, death
                        sentences us
                                                 to form
the interminable terms by which
                                    we do not end. That
as any road seen
                        through a pane of glass, it moves
            the gaze in voluptuous drift
until a cardinal
            startles the eye
                                    to shape, each wing a hinge
            between this world
                                    and another—

That the bond That the bind That the hinge
That the end That the heart That the rock
That the wind That the earth That the span
That the wing That the bound That the wave
That the air That the cloth That the weight
That the love That the debt That the heat
That the cut That the fold That the note
That the fist That the leaf That the fall
That the fright That the voice That the vow
That the hand That the flame That the bend
That the blood That the breath That the hold

Hold the banded riot, its loosened face approaching.


Supritha Rajan is associate professor of English at the University of Rochester. Her poems have been published in such journals as Literary ImaginationColorado ReviewPoetry NorthwestAntioch Review, and elsewhere.