Warp (v): To thrust (one’s hand) forth; to lay (hands) on; to cast (one’s head) down;
to strike (a stroke). Obsolete.
Her blood was water:
there was water all over the floor
when I found her I ran
hands through her damp hair
ran to the street ran my eyes
up to the muscled sky, a thigh flexed
squatting over us, God—as a nurse
with her fingers already on the bone
snapped ándale, get over here
and help me lift the body
to disinfect the wound. Before
she died her blood laid its hands
on the steps and on the rain barrel,
on the tile in the garden. Te riego
I heard her tell the lime tree
flowering in the yard.
Before that before she fell before
she died she swelled:
her ankles and her fingers grew
like pale tubers, thrust
from the soil too soon.
She salted everything she ate
until her rings bit into her skin
and her skin grew over them.
In the church I saw her
sanding the feet of Jesus
from a crucifix to collect the sawdust
in her handkerchief, and so she salted
her tea and her tortillas
with, she said, a holy salt,
a tasteless salt from her pocket
pinched and sprinkled
on cakes and on eggs and in milk
until she swelled so much she prayed
for us to bury her but let her keep
her rings, her wedding ring.
When she fell in the garden
watering the plants
she prayed and fell
against the garden wall with her hands
full of soil and salt
We disinfected water to disinfect
the wound: the blush
of iodine droplets in a bowl
clarified to nothing
more than prayer: te ruego
to the water, to the nurse,
and on her lips I heard her
say te riego.
In the church I always saw her,
absentminded, touch her own hands
as if to touch something under the skin.
At the funeral
her hands were laced
in gloves to hide the stitching
where a finger was
sliced off to take a wedding ring.
If, in the church, there was blood
her blood was colorless
on the white lace and on her skin
there was no mark
to recognize by blood
our hands can hold water
or gold or seeds, our hands can hold
our hands hold earth.
Laura Bylenok’s work has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in Subtropics, Pleiades, Unsplendid, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Artful Dodge, and other journals. She is currently a PhD candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Utah, where she is also a New Media editor for Quarterly West. She lives in Salt Lake City.
Feature image by Rodel Tapaya, Healing Miracle, 2014.
Acrylic on canvas, 72 × 48 in
Click on the image to enlarge.