“Bruises” by Mark Halperin

Mark Halperin


When my dog stopped short to inspect
a dead owl’s carcass, I fell right, avoiding
her, and to break my landing, stretched
a hand out. It swelled, but never ached,
and I thought I had escaped unscathed.
Trying to make a fist, each finger comes
around except the fat and reddened pinky.

Add it to a growing list of minor injuries,
my rap-sheet. Could it be you don’t fail
all at once, but suffer bruises first, then
your hair falls, sores refuse to heal, creases
deepen into clefts, crevasses and you go
limp below? Maybe you give and give
until, exhausted, you’ve nothing left to—

strip-poker player down to losing skin.
Who’s that caricature with the rosette
nose, drooping flesh and lumpy fingers,
sliding toward a flat event-horizon? Is
there no seeing past it? Now I pare
my body down, where the shavings,
thinner and sheerer, curl and disappear.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005

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