Doomed beauties, my companions, my familiars,
your long arms braceleted with snakes of danger,
a questions twines in all the undergrowth.
How can we tell the living from the dead?
Puvis de Chavanne’s tall pearly figures
dressed as sturdy Spartans at the chase
turn out to be pale paper dolls in space.
And how can we be sure that we’re alive?
Our bodies, aging, changing, slow and stiffen.
On flesh if not yet quite inert increasingly opaque,
bite or bruise or blemish pose the questions
Where have you been? What have you been doing?
My sister’s leg, scaled by a manic cat
nearly three years ago, still is scored and punctured.
Last September I picked blackberries
bare-armed; here are the scratches ten weeks later.
We are passing through the world.
This is some of what is does to us.
Rachel Hadas, “Fleshly Answers” from Halfway Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Rachel Hadas. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: Halfway Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems
(Wesleyan University Press, 1998)