I’d like to introduce you to Ell.
Her chin and jaw are pink from laser burns,
only smooth from fifteen feet away.
Her eyebrows don’t match.
They aren’t even sisters or cousins.
One comes from Turkey,
the other was born in Kansas.
Early in life, it seems her nose had a stroke,
and now one nostril slides down
into the canal that cuts under the cheek.
But she says, at least the lips
are full and red.
The two clavicle bones,
the tendons in the neck,
even the hard lump in the throat, she believes,
cast such fabulous shadows, don’t you think?
Her forehead, she jokes,
is like a billboard advertising
nothing more or less than itself.
Have patience with her.
She is quiet, but not unfriendly.
She wants, but won’t ask,
to unburden herself. So you should go first.
Ask her about the weight of death
in her eyes – about the already, the soon,
and the ready-to-be dead.
Ask her why her eyes sit back,
the way lips sit back in a mouth
without teeth. Ask her
how her head has come to surrender,
the way sailboats surrender and list
into the cold and thoughtless winds.
Ask her about the whole
of her face, sharp and soft,
drifting and grounded. Ask if she’s looking away
into the future’s unopened basket,
or if she’s possessed with an old mournful fury.
will the anger and pain go away,
or do they simply lose the strength to scream.