Winter 2009 - THE POTOMAC

Three Poems
   Kendra Kopelke

Pissaro's Pontoise Post-Op

I am one week post-op and sitting beside
a window that plays nothing but steamy
rush hour traffic, a sky hovering like a foul odor,
and for starters I count thirteen black
electric wires crisscrossing the street, a portrait
of the intensity and congestion that dogs old Baltimore.
If not for the new leaves thickening the branches,
there would be little to sing of,
but that could just be the anesthesia talking
over the din of this waking dream. I miss the bright lights
of surgery, the last joke with the surgeon
before he flayed me, the drugged bed that
buried me below the reach of my own
whisper, the little morphine pump placed in my palm
like my own candy machine, and the dependable
touch of so many nurses' hands.
And then there was the morning
after, when a resident asked, Could I
take a peek at your belly? and lifted my gown
as though it was tissue paper:
It's sooo beautiful, he sang in his best Billie Holiday,
sooooo beautiful, he hummed, like a dog
trying to calm his own sensitivity to perfection.
And then, came the cool the stethoscope
pressed lightly on my abdomen, and then
the gurgling sounds of the bowels waking up,
amplified like church bells from another lifetime.
Paint that, Pisarro, I say, staring wistfully into the postcard,
trying to write again.

After I Blew Through My Hysterectomy

After I blew through my hysterectomy, I
should not have been surprised by the baby
dreams that were released in me, like dozens
of helium balloons, nor how the gold finchís
disappearance into the dark green patch of garden
saddened me with its quick graceful exit. It was
a summer spent on the other side
of the operating table, taking in the view and I
came to know more where I stood, and
what to listen for, and I made two piles,
what was here and what was gone, then
watched them overlap. The old Cape Cod
shipwrecks that rise up every year,
under a full moon, I could see them, just at the
edge of the horizon, the Whydah, the Jason, the Portland,
my eyes level with the outsideís outside, its periphery,
where things linger and circle back, where
feeling takes real shape. Nature, says Thoreau,
knows what to pay attention to, and ignores the train whistle.
Before I headed north, my father gave me a long warm hug
and I let him, let him hold on,
past the standard Kopelke hug time,
because he needed to transmit a message to me,
and maybe I could risk it all again. I have missed him.
Surgery isnít the magic moment I make it out to be,
you certainly know I am making everything up,
but not the part about being cut open,
when the skin becomes more astute,
and doesnít take itself for granted, and
the insides, well,
it will be awhile before they can tell
me what they felt about what they saw.

Vermeerís Light

Unlike you, Iíve spent the morning with Vermeerís
light, feeling it settle me, or put me under
an old spell, the summer I was young and stuck
in a cabin in the mountains writing everyday
with too little to bring to it, and then I found
his book that happened to be on the wrong shelf
in the town library, and the paintings became
inseparable from me, with me
wanting to be close to something back then,
an intimacy I couldnít name, naturally,
not sex, which seemed to come out of nowhere,
what other people asked for late at night,
but looking back I think a less
horny response to desire and loneliness
suited me better, after all I chose
to be hundreds of miles from anyone
who knew me, which partially explains
the intensity of a Vermeer, though I didnít know
it at the time, who, God bless him,
never said one word but for those
solitary young women he set in the window
(like bait), then watched to see where the light
would emerge and steal the show,
on a sleeve, of all places, a few folds in her blue
dress, my breathing.

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