Selected Poems by Ellene Glenn Moore
As a child I come to my parents’ room at night, seeking comfortable bodies, a closet clear of monsters, a different kind of darkness. It is the darkness in the hallway between us that frightens me the most—no windows, alive with its own pulse. I cannot see my fingers in front of me, as though my body were receding into nothing.
In the small hours of the morning I wake Andrew and ask him to roll me from my right side to my left. Some slight motion has thrown my back and now my body won’t turn when I tell it to, medical emblem of more nuanced misgivings about my ability to find grace in movement. I think of a story my mother tells: pirouetting across a stage in San Francisco, air disarticulated around her body, which she moves with the sort of trust I have never been able to muster in myself.
Unconscious, my body renews itself without my numb interventions. Light from the windows makes the bedspread glow, and in this halo I am pulled from wakefulness into the bodily machinery of sleep.
I slip under the covers in my mother’s bed, just a moment ago awoken by a helicopter outside my window—no, an engine under my bed—no, the air conditioner—and as she puts her arm around me she says, “You’re so small, there’s hardly any of you there.” She says it with something like awe, tenderness, my slight body not quite something to be admired but something to be petted, something to yield.
In her story, the actor at the other corner of the stage is flirting with some body in the wings and fails to catch my mother’s swirling form. She tumbles over the footlights, wrenching her back, and it will never be put quite back in place. All I have done is sit up out of bed strangely and my body rebels against my clumsiness. Better to stay in bed, it says, than to use me the way you do.
Strange to think that my body makes itself without my knowledge—breath to blood, blood to lymph—the circuits and turnings I cannot feel or taste except as they gather presence, like a wave reaching the shore. I cannot see where the wave begins, which lonely wind swept it up, which sea-bottom grain of sand held back its feet until it grew large and unruly, falling over itself in a clamor for the distant dune grass. I adjust my arm under the pillow, I grow new skin, I wake with the sun, but I am utterly absent from myself, like the sunburnt canopy of leaves that spares no breath for a bead of water wicking through a tender, white root.
Held against my mother’s body, I sleep. In a few years, in my own bed, I lie on my back in lamplight and look down between my small breasts to my belly. How new it seems, and frightening, no longer a bowl carved between my hip bones. I lift my hips and lower them, consider them this way and that, wondering if I ought to wish there were more of me, or less.
Or, perhaps I am growing larger, swallowing the darkness, the hall, our bedrooms, until my body is itself a house and I am slight inside of it, anxiously feeling my way along the walls.
A Traditional Sculpture
After Eleanor Antin
I am observing the blue line
gather itself into constellation,
imagine itself red, pink, green, white.
It seems to be reaching towards me,
while just a few rooms away a woman carves her body
and exacts from the medium something
cruel, not a layering on.
I am telling you these things
because I, too, hoping to find pain,
a beast, a house—already designed, waiting
for the carver (I am the carver) to nod in admission,
and articulate the form without a gathering,
a building up, an addiction.
Mirror with Handle in the Form of a Female Figure
Etruscan, 3rd century B.C.
Here, a woman is made
to be held and behold, both
object and subject. Over and over
she lifts her hand to her lips
as though she could draw words from her mouth
if / only / metal might yield. Close to her side,
a vial of scented oil. Once, she may have said more
than the globe above her head—now,
we are all simply watching.
Ellene Glenn Moore
Ellene Glenn Moore is a writer living in sunny South Florida. Her her poetry has appeared in Best New Poets, Caliban, and Salamander, among others, and her prose has appeared in Brevity, Fjords Review, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA in creative writing at Florida International University, where she held a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellowship in Poetry. Her chapbook The Dark Edge of the Bluff is forthcoming from Green Writers Press. Find her at elleneglennmoore.com.