The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jennifer Militello’s “Autobiography Toward a Study of the Thousand Wounds”


Autobiography Toward a Study of the Thousand Wounds

Doctor, this is my diary. It begins with my confession to you.

I was hung before my throat could cry the rivers. I was hung
like an animal and the rope had a bite: when I touch, I touch
a razor of teeth, an amen on the edge of each of them. I am
adrift. I can see the pier with the loose rope fallen. I can see the
fog and the oars that will not last. I have eyes that are lanterns
so I will not wreck. And yet I cannot steer myself toward land. I
am at the end of risk. I am at the end of my fragmenting hands.
I only have nerves to tell me how far. I only have nerves; the
rest of me is ill.What I twist into rears toward frost. I twist into
the immigrant rain. I am again at sea, made sick with floating.
As it is, I am rich with different versions of myself, and I do not
know an antidote for me.

I am an impossible equation proven to exist.With the ache of
layers yet to peel off, made of features and a clockwork heart
whose mechanism breaks as death sits, wreckage in the face,
smells foul, and is blackened. Accidental fracture is a gift.

What I see is not so much a lost figure as an arch of rain, so
many windows, and an expression like wool. What I see is not
so much the fields of me as the silver beneath, the skeleton,
its trace elements, as one falls to the hands and knees. What I
see is not so much the childhood collapse or the stories the
sea-branches cherish and break, or the way I move air in front
of me from its delicate weave. What I see is a child’s breath at
the shoulder like a thief. A chemistry of sin that earns our keep.
That makes of me an enemy when the enemy is scarce.

I cannot remember my guilt, my personal plague is one of
indifference: my house is built of ill dreams, a desire to do harm,
the sick art of the act. The struggle is a thing I scrape free:
random cloaks or shadows across my lips that keep what I say
as the oath I have sworn. What I would have said terrifies
the masses. What I would have said threatens with the large hand,
with planets askew, with what I knew was wrong from the
moment I thought it.

Doctor, there are too many nests for me. To list. To sit and see.
To frequent. To invent. I count them out, sticks and rakes, ribs
and rags, a fathom I can wreck. To sense. To taste. These are the
prophecies where the whisperings can live. I sift them and wait.
I shake them and end. I am the land. By the flesh of the world,
I crush and flee. I seize and cry. I am the mind of me. I singe
and crave. The nothing of me crude. I am soothed from it.


This selection is from Jennifer Militello’s book Body Thesaurus, available from Tupelo PressPurchase your copy here!

Jennifer Militello is the author of Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013), named a finalist for the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award by Marilyn Hacker, Flinch of Song (Tupelo Press, 2009), winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award, and the chapbook Anchor Chain, Open Sail. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The North American Review, The Paris Review, and Best New Poets 2008.

Mary Stone Dockery is the author of One Last Cigarette, a poetry collection, and the chapbooks Blink Finch and The Dopamine Letters. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Stirring: A Literary Collection, Gutter Eloquence, Arts & Letters, Redactions, and others. She earned her MFA from the University of Kansas in 2012. Currently, she lives and writes in St. Joseph, MO, where she teaches English at Missouri Western State University and coordinates the First Thursdays Open Mic at Norty’s Bar and Grill.

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