The Aureole

By Nikky Finney b. 1957 Nikky Finney

(for E)


               I stop my hand midair.
 
               If I touch her there everything about me will be true.
               The New World discovered without pick or ax.
 
               I will be what Brenda Jones was stoned for in 1969.
               I saw it as a girl but didn’t know I was taking in myself.
 
               My hand remembers, treading the watery room,
               just behind the rose-veiled eyes of memory.
 
Alone in the yard tucked beneath the hood of her car,
lucky clover all about her feet, green tea-sweet necklace
for her mud-pie crusty work boots.
 
She fends off their spit & words with silent two-handed
twists & turns of her socket wrench. A hurl of sticks &
stones and only me to whisper for her, from sidewalk far,
 
break my bones. A grown woman in grease-pocket overalls
inside her own sexy transmission despite the crowding of
hurled red hots. Beneath the hood of her candy-apple Camaro:
 
souped, shiny, low to the ground.
 
               The stars over the Atlantic are dangling
               salt crystals. The room at the Seashell Inn is
               $20 a night; special winter off-season rate.
               No one else here but us and the night clerk,
               five floors below, alone with his cherished
               stack of Spiderman. My lips are red snails
               in a primal search for every constellation
               hiding in the sky of your body. My hand
               waits for permission, for my life to agree
               to be changed, forever. Can Captain Night
               Clerk hear my fingers tambourining you
               there on the moon? Won’t he soon climb
               the stairs and bam! on the hood of this car?
               You are a woman with film reels for eyes.
               Years of long talking have brought us to the
               land of the body. Our skin is one endless
               prayer bead of brown. If my hand ever lands,
               I will fly past dreaming Australian Aborigines.
               The old claw hammer and monkey wrench
               that flew at Brenda Jones will fly across the
               yard of ocean at me. A grease rag will be
               thrust into my painter’s pants against my
               will. I will never be able to wash or peel
               any of this away. Before the night is over
               someone I do not know will want the keys
               to my ’55 silver Thunderbird. He will chase
               me down the street. A gaggle of spooked
               hens will fly up in my grandmother’s yard,
               never to lay another egg, just as I am jump-
               ed, kneed, pulled finally to the high ground
               of sweet clover.

Nikky Finney, “The Aureole” from Head Off & Split. Copyright © 2011 by Nikky Finney. Reprinted by permission of Northwestern University Press.

Source: Head Off and Split (Northwestern University Press, 2011)

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Poet Nikky Finney b. 1957

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, The Body, Love, Desire, Realistic & Complicated, Relationships, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Nikky  Finney

Biography

Poet Nikky Finney was born in 1957 in South Carolina. The daughter of a lawyer and teacher, Finney’s parents were both active in the Civil Rights movement and her childhood was shaped by the turmoil and unrest of the South in the 1960s and ‘70s. In an interview with the Oxford American, Finney noted: “I've never been far away from the human-rights struggle black people have been involved with in the South. That has been one of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Body, Love, Desire, Realistic & Complicated, Relationships, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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