I don't look at my masked face
in the mirror much anymore.
It has its life, I have mine.
Someday I will leave my house and address
the living by name
without apologies or explanations.
I will speak to the dead. They are
whether my salvation depends on a plumed serpent
or a tadpole god,
a basilica burns
in every rosebud
or the rat tomb of an emperor is scoured awake
by searchlights and rumor.
The converted opening their veins.
Anyone may be replaced
by steam, by electricity
there is no sun protection in the end.
Just this staggering out, eyes shaded,
for Dorothy Disse and Avis Matero
Whatever death my body already has in store for me
looks more delicate, more
disarming, if that's possible,
than the snowdrift that vertebraes
my fence into a swept procession of doorknobs
& stepping bones.
My property line
all but erased.
When I was five or six
I walked out on the coldest February morning's snowcrust
and for a creaking half hour: heaven.
I did not break the surface, fall through.
My name small in my mother's calling
I lived a while in perfect privacy.
it is your own business
how our preservation comes
under your care
from such an early age. If the walk is iced
the sun clears it.
I need to learn
not to ask for help
with every little thing.
Because you are blind and have no information, I must take the lead.
Dorothy Barresi is the author of five books of poetry: What We Did While We Made More Guns (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2018); American Fanatics; Rouge Pulp; The Post-Rapture Diner, winner of an American Book Award; and All of the Above, winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at California State University, Northridge and lives in Los Angeles.
Author's Note: Both "Face" and "Property" were re-written during the past pandemic year. They appeared in their original, pre-Covid form in my 2018 book, What We Did While We Made More Guns (University of Pittsburgh Press).