The shock comes slowly
as an afterthought.
First you hear the words
and they are like all other words,
ordinary, breathing out of lips,
moving toward you in a straight line.
Later they shatter
and rearrange themselves. They spell
something else hidden in the muscles
of the face, something the throat wanted to say.
Decoded, the message etches itself in acid
so every syllable becomes a sore.
The shock blooms into a carbuncle.
The body bends to accommodate it.
A special scarf has to be worn to conceal it.
It is now the size of a head.
The next time you look,
it has grown two eyes and a mouth.
It is difficult to know which to use.
Now you are seeing everything twice.
After a while it becomes an old friend.
It reminds you every day of how it came to be.
Ruth Stone, “The Wound” from Simplicity. Copyright © 1995 by Ruth Stone. Reprinted with the permission of Paris Press, Inc.