It seems to have a predilection for females.
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.
Hypoesthesia: numbness, the absence of sensation.
Absence often feels like something.
All those years
I made love to a man without thinking
how little his body had to do with me
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
Brazen this word
I've lost, lying there,
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
"Symptoms" is also published in Laurie Clements Lambeth, Veil and Burn, University of Illinois Press. © 2008 Laurie Clements Lambeth. Return to poem