On reading Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres 2 years and 7 days ago today

now, the book itself (trade paperback, Americana-colored,
some bleached field or other on the cover) the book itself
was nothing much to look at: creased a bit, battered a bit,
yellowing and dog-eared, read maybe once but loved for all that–
read thoroughly, pored over and furrowed through, a lived-in look–
this book, then, acted on me like slow poison.
I became porous, mottled: like my left mandibular cuspid
(the one that never looks clean), this book stained me,
made me more, the way a stain can make a floor more floor,
less perfect yet idiosyncratic, the way a scorch mark makes
a tea-towel perfectly your own, the way a scar can make a home.
somewhere, on the map of myself, this book pinned a
you-are-here-sign to my skin, ate its acid splash all the way in,
and there I was, inside its pages: invisible, an onlooker, voyeur and passenger,
passive–yet more present to its moment than to my earliest memories.
slow and deep I sank in it, seeping dark fluids into that wrecked landscape
until we stuck together, those pages and me: stuck with a gross moistness
like old brown boots to an abattoir floor, like a house fly to a cobra lily.
it was not beautiful, that butchery, it was not kind or generous;
I never want to go again into that poisoned land, nor hold the book
in my naked hands without gloves between me and its radiant stink.
yet how can I regret the days I spent here, staked thigh-high in tides of pig shit,
flayed ribbon-raw on a scarecrow pole, eyes pinned to the tops of my sockets,
sick to my bones with the holy act of staring at the sun?

Self-portrait of the poet on Zoom, setting up her Sitzfleisch Poetry Hour: a silent hour online with like-minded poets once a month, devoted to the act of writing poetry.

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