Cross My Heart (Acrylic, Coloured Pencil, and Graphite on Wood Panel)
© 2021 by Caroline Bacher.[P1] All rights reserved.
—the futility of eyesight in utter blindness, since Magritte said
everything is curtained and the curtain is what defines a needle,
an eye, a hand, as what they may pretend to be. Bacher’s sleeve
could well be a curtain, and the hands she draws a theater stage
over which the mind hovers. Stage manager becomes managed
in the needling predicament presented to his vulnerable eye—
polished, gleaming, behind its metallic curtain—vulnerability
having become a ritual of unblinking palm, stone cathedral arch
of a hand. Does the hand plunge the needle into heart or eye?
Heart and eye are both eyes. Which one fears the hand more—
the heart or eye of a husband whose wife goes from “Yes, I do”
to “Who are you?” Her eyes windows in a vacant house. Floors
sound an old rhythm, antiphonal, unanswered. A needle drops
and rattles on hardwood, into a staring ear, followed by stillness.
As if she had plummeted into the Grand Canyon on honeymoon—
like she almost did in real life. In her place, a canyon with trees
along the wall of the other side like matchsticks, snow topped.
Breath whispers from the bedroom as she sleeps away her days—
the languid sway of tall pines as a breeze passes. Pine needles
hover, poised at an eye. Cross my heart / and hope to die / stick
a needle in my eye. In the contours of a needle is the straightness
of a quandary with white ruffled sleeves. Are the Bacher ruffles
sheer actually by the way they’re drawn, cross-hatched? I stare
at fabric which could pass as either premonition or fabrication—
etched lines engraving imagination with a cloth’s warp and weft—
while royal-blue thread stitched along a buttonhole is a heartstring,
echoes a vibration which passes through the needle’s eye, parting
where a pearl emerges to button the sleeve. As if light or air could
be paused for a hand to hold. As if people could be trusted to keep
breathing. You claim no pain / but I see right through. Pallid light
glimmers as curtains move as a ruffled sleeve does when a wrist
rotates. Luster reflected in a glistening, unblinking eye. Metallic
thoughts querl in the atmosphere, blend with a querulous silence
which masquerades as stillness. Minutes, cross-hatched strands,
stretch in a skein—threads like a backlit, brandished pirate flag—
the black background behind Bacher’s hand and its needle. Black
mixed in a pearl’s luster. I can’t hold this secret any longer / it’s
hurting you / not making you stronger. Pearl on Bacher’s sleeve—
a pearl to heal. A pearl to wish for many years. A pearl for which
one, feeling insignificant, a sand grain, might wish. An eye stares
into a needle’s center point, as a woman sleeps longer each day.
A needle point the arrow-point of a clock hand, making its point
that it doesn’t have to travel to take flight, nothing pauses for it.
I’m willing to risk / our bond that we own / so long as you’re safe
you’ll not be alone.3 And the royal-blue thread in Bacher’s needle
runs through the needle’s eye in a line to the sleeve’s buttonhole
where the pearl comes though. It vibrates back and forth, forward
and rearward, toward a quadrivial point like light though curtains.
A man sits in a chair, opening curtains in his mind, and pretends
there is nothing to pretend. The needle glints, does not move—
Mom died in her sleep, after a long illness, in the early morning of January 8, 2022, a few weeks after my writing this poem for the Triple-Q Writing Challenge. Sometimes a writing prompt will just not let go. Such was the case with both the Triple-Q word list and also Caroline Bacher’s stunning work. I had already finished a poem based on the latter, which was published in The Ekphrastic Review [scroll down to the fourth poem, “Cross Her Heart”].
Something darker and much more personal remained and wanted out. Dad shared very little about his vigil as Mom deteriorated, maybe to save me from an overload of anguish, and maybe because he could not bear himself to say more (something I have been discovering for myself since her passing). Maybe I wrote this second poem to fill the gaps he left—subconsciously so, since much of the writing came unbidden, automatically and organically. The title from Ashbery tempered and honed the overall point and brought it home.
is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State
University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review,
Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, Gleam: Journal of the Cadralor,
MacQueen’s Quinterly, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook,
Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was
published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach.
Le Grand Matin by Jonathan Yungkans, a Finalist in
MacQ’s Triple-Q Writing Challenge (Issue 11, January 2022)
La Porte by Yungkans in MacQ’s special
Christmas Eve issue (10X, December 2021)
Two Duplex Poems, plus author’s notes on the poems and on
the form, by Yungkans in Issue 10 of MacQ (October 2021)
Lawful and Proper, poem in Rise Up Review (Fall 2020)
Cadralor in the Key of F-Sharp as It Cuts into My Spine, in
the inaugural issue of Gleam (Fall 2020)
I’d Love to Cook Like Hannibal Lecter [video], read
by the poet at an event sponsored by Moon Tide Press (10 October 2019) celebrating
the anthology Dark Ink: A Poetry Anthology Inspired by Horror
⚡ Saving the Patient, poem in The Voices Project
(18 January 2018)