There, the Similarity Ends
At session’s end, she cradles
my head in a towel, rolls it
back and forth in all the gentle
spirals the spine is made for.
This time, as she readies me,
the smallest swathe covers
my nostrils, trapping my breath
in a quick gasp, and reminding me
of waterboarding, of victims
drowning and reviving,
the pinching off of air
to force confession.
I wonder if the brain
suffers beyond the immediate
alarm, whether neurons die,
and with them, memories, those
of gentler touch, say, of different
kinds of gasping, the spending of
passion, the passing of beauty.
Sheltered as I am, I know
the tortured changed, but how—
at the cellular level, or only
in attitude, wary of sheets
on the line or dishtowels
draped over the faucet? Freed,
I gather myself amidst spruce-
scented candles, choose
my memories, and leave.
The Lower Self
Not a nest, but hair, yanked, blood-spattered.
There are scratch marks, skin
beneath nails, and bruises waiting to lift
their message from within.
Rage wafts an acrid stink. Beside myself,
my nostrils flare to suck it in.
I know now the time to return, but I
prefer this dark twin.
In the morning, shame crushes me,
just as fallen roof beams pin
survivors. I hyperventilate, croak
for help in a voice reed-thin.
This aftermath should suffice for warning,
but it’s a place I’ve often been.
(after Cristina Troufa’s The Lower Self)
Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out or forthcoming. Her individual poems can be found here as well as in Cordite, Rattle, Posit, The Ekphrastic Review, Peacock Journal, and more.