DSQ > Spring 2008, Volume 28, No.2

Symptoms*

It seems to have a predilection for females.

-on MS, from Multiple Sclerosis: A Guide for Patients and their Families

I'll try to tell you how it feels: girdle

my grandmother wore, tight-laced corset

worn by her mother in Wales, but it seldom slips

from my ribcage. No hooks or laces, only

spaces of remission, then relapse,

a trip to the ancient clothes again:

crinolines, skirts grazing ankles, long

satin embroidered sleeves that rub and pull

naked skin, saying, now and then you must

try to feel through this, and this. All that fabric

wound around torso, legs, the dresses

and sheets binding to keep me in

bed. The cure is rest, they tell me. Dizzy,

drunk when I haven't drunk, I'm drawn

to the wall to prop me. I've been known to sport

a cane, per the fashion, to smooth the gait.

Fix my mouth in a loose pout when speech

eludes its muscles, tired, stiff as the garments

that hold me. On occasion, they'll fall

to reveal this body, a window of cellophane

wrapping my limbs, a ring for each finger.

"Symptoms" is also published in Laurie Clements Lambeth, Veil and Burn, University of Illinois Press. © 2008 Laurie Clements Lambeth. Return to poem


Hypoesthesia*

Hypoesthesia: numbness, the absence of sensation.

Absence often feels like something.

- Inside MS

All those years

I made love to a man without thinking

how little his body had to do with me

- Mark Doty

For now (who knows how long now is) his touch is nothing but warmth and trace

trailing his hand up my thigh and around my stomach. I feel a little

something crystallize after each pass of his hand, then it's dust.

Whoever thought sex could be so literally senseless? The first time (my first time)

I cried a little because I did not want it, but gave to make my boyfriend stop asking.

That was a different kind of senselessness.

I wanted to cry this time, too, another first since the new flare-up broke:

feet, knee, thigh, stomach, hip, hollow of the back, neither my body nor my skin

but a loose-fitting carapace, bubble, prosthetic even.

Are you touching me,

I thought to ask, but instead watched as he kissed each part and caressed

and did what we do when I feel right. I didn't sayI can't feel that,

but let his hands and mouth travel.

For the first time in my life I let go of my body a while and looked down

with fascination at the man I love in the process of loving me — :

the way the window's meager light managed

to illuminate his nails with each finger's lengthening, how it raised

his tendons (like spines) before his knuckles into glow. Stunning

to see his eyebrows and lashes crush, devoted,

with each kiss planted along my belly, to feel only the cool afterward.

Strange that now would be the time I comprehend our otherness, these bodies

wanting more: luminous, impossible whole.

"Hypoesthesia" is also published in Laurie Clements Lambeth, Veil and Burn, University of Illinois Press. © 2008 Laurie Clements Lambeth. Return to poem


Past Forgetting

Brazen this word

I've lost, lying there,

common blossom

in my palm, scentless

and tasteless, clueless

and pink as any other.

I might be able to name it,

maybe the first letter an S

on the tip of my tongue,

if I could only call back

a syllable. (Or is it a P?)

The hand refuses wired

requests, to please

rise up to my mouth,

insert the word

like a host of memory

onto willing tongue,

or to crush its pollen

into my frontal lobe.

I pause and smack

my brow red to blooming

with the good hand.

Where the flower—

or what ever it was—

had sat: seams

across an open palm,

circuits blind and bent on

leading nowhere.

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