Body and Eye

She is naked. Body exposed. Disability prompts the stare. I become both object of the stare and the stare itself. I am split in two. I am my mother and her audience. I am the body and the eye. Her desire becomes mine even though my desire goes against her desire. I am the exposure and the fashioning, her blouse hanging on the gate. I am the scream and the silence. Her body and my eye. I become the abnormal. I resist the abnormal that I am from. I am the story. I am the silence. No one asks. I have no story.

To create meaning out of suffering and chaos.   

Students write about Judith. She is imaginary to them, Shakespeare’s sister. They are first discovering her. I have known her for years.
I read their work. I hear her name. Strong. Opinionated.
She has her story. Historian by training.
Always unlucky, according to another friend.
Her desire for accuracy goes against the desire of others.
Mistakes are not suffered.
Note to self: a level of detail not easily replicated.

A mistake that affects her future is discovered.
Extensive notes of anger, prepared in advance. Don the armor.
The arrival, intensive. Collaboration is crucial. A mistake
that affects the future cannot be cured. We watch a concert
together, an audience of patients.
Her voice has been exposed, the notes take hold. I am
neither screaming nor silent. She is not my mother.
To prove this, I sit for coffee at a sidewalk café after a visit.
She walks into the hospice of her own accord, I am told.

Time passes.

I leave my office to weep without an audience.

The viewing, a mistake. This public exposure,
its abnormal fashioning. Her name.
Not a subject. An object.
Her body and my eye.


Nina Bannett’s poetry has appeared in print journals such as Open Minds QuarterlyBellevue Literary Review, CALYX  and online at Topology, the fem, and Snapdragon, among others.  Her chapbook Lithium Witness  was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011, and her first full-length collection of poems, These Acts of Water, was published in 2015 by ELJ Publications. She is an associate professor of English and department chairperson at New York City College of Technology, CUNY.  She is currently working on a poetry collection that explores a long friendship between two women that falls apart.


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