My Body is (the) Marginalia; The Sun Drawn a Saw Across the Strings

Jennifer Bartlett

how much does one’s ability to feel the other depend on one’s feeling for oneself

how much does one’s ability to be for the other

depend on one’s ability to be for oneself

we are all windows

hold still in the light

the edginess / every year /o it’s so painful/ to let go

etched on the river’s sound
the water has to suffer

I was a kind friend

held in the branches of dreamers

and I loved you so


We went to Grand Central station. I turned you to the wall so that I could speak to you through the arch. I had planned to tell you how much I loved you. But you were so cranky and nervous. Turning your back to all these people. We sat on someone else’s stoop and ate our breakfast. You learned the words solace, longing. Fall inched closer. Her birthday.


I’m afraid your fingerprints are far from disabled.


I want to change my pronoun to they

That way there will be one of me

For each of you at all times.

In the bed, I sat next to where you slept and I burned.

In sleep, your body curved toward me

Through dreaming you said Question.

I dreamt that my uncle had had all the tattoos scrubbed off his skin

Or was that you, dearest?

Sometimes, the days row me. Sometimes, I row the days.

I like your knees. By this I mean all kinds of things.


Nontraditional relationships remain nontraditional and yet, for all my defensiveness, everyone knows and no one cares, even the people in my life who are religious. There is something about people who have been married who know that marriage is a next to impossible journey. My mother wants to know if I love you. My father simply doesn’t understand why I don’t lie to my husband, how can he come to terms with my honesty? Society tells us we are all meant for one kind of relationship, but then why do so many people separate?

My husband says he might be bisexual.


The vow to only give my body to only one person for the rest of my life troubled me. Once I chose to give myself only to my husband, I was no longer my own. When I am with you, my body is my own. There is nothing about my body that belongs to you, nothing in you that belongs to me.

I want to be part of this unit: not the whole of it.

As I progress, the four voices become a chorus and it becomes impossible to distinguish one from another. I wish I had a bed that was you.


The facts of my life are minimal, and I’ve named most of them here. I have mild cerebral palsy due to a trauma at birth. I grew up around able-bodied people. My parents divorced. My grandmother died. My mother was found temporarily insane (which is now, perhaps attributed to post-partum depression) and committed briefly to the mental hospital. During those few days my infant sister and I were in an orphanage. My father moved to France. My mother remarried. I had many responsibilities and few freedoms. I changed parents. I fell in with the gays. Ashley died. I met friends who would stay with me for life. Emma died. Then college, then more college. A love affair. A move East, poetry and so on. Marriage. Elizabeth died. Then John & Louis shot themselves. A baby who grew up to be a brilliant, obstinate boy. Dion died. Sasha died. Feminism. I met you in a fish restaurant.


The music from the record feels like rain. My father complained of neglect. I wanted to look at the document again. Andrea had never felt that way, though many have felt that way about her, present company included.  I tried not to possess you, but failed in that one moment.


My body burned. It was then that I knew I could lose both of you. I felt the drinking mostly in my hands.

Only once a week, and how!  Through dreaming you said, accurate.


I secretly started to watch porn in the moments of the day that were left to boredom. When I could not write, when I was done moving about, I focused on watching women give men blow-jobs. What bothered me was that one could never see the man’s face. However, I learned some things in this way. I tried them on you, and you were happy.


My parents met when she was fourteen, and he was fifteen. My mother had an affair as a young woman when my father was in graduate school. She confessed this to him in the grocery store. The man’s name was Bill. My father would not forgive her. My father later left my mother for another woman. Her name was Mary.At first we were all together; we lived across the quad from each other in married student housing. I was stung by a bee. I had the chicken pox. I watched the Wizard of Oz every year on channel 4. These are ordinary things.

Jennifer Bartlett‘s collections include Beauty is a Verb. The New Poetry of Disability (Ed.), Derivative of the Moving Image, and (a) lullaby without any music. She is currently working on a biography of the poet Larry Eigner.



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