Ely Shipley


All contour, the neck, the terracotta skin
stitched tight, the place my aunt describes
to children, where, she says, I was torn

open by sharks, or forced at knife-point
to walk the plank.

But really it was that

glaze of white, to her a sudden cloud
or stallion, galloping off the page of a novel,
some story—
a car crashed into hers, simply

gliding surreal and slow as a childhood
paper airplane crumpling. One engine locked into
another into breast-bone, the heart

suddenly brick struck by a hammer. She was
cloaked in that red, inside out, her hair
a web around her face, eye lashes and glass, spittle
and metal entwined. But I only hear this

in the after, the shade
of a tree on a New England lawn,
early spring. I feel as if
I am inside that car, I am that car, and I am

drifting into her
as if into a box. I hang here, small
sphere orbiting inside this

planetarium. I am heady with the weight of how
fragile we are, how disembodied, then composed. Here
is where the sun hides, a voice which speaks from beyond

my aunt's perforated throat. It is the map to a place
I will never enter, but wish to
trail with my fingers, read the Braille
of her, follow

this story, as the needle that once
reassembled her dug deep—little silver
diver, plunging into water, then

up for air, sewing itself between two
worlds, here and there, me
and her, to stitch

all that can only be
seamless in the dark.



How bodies are read (into, onto, and out from) and the desire to move between and across physical and psychological divides directed my attention in this poem.