Chemistry Lessons

The glass thermometer shattered,
mercury sliding across the tile,

my mother knelt in the spilt silver
discarding shards of glass, chasing

the freed beads onto a plate.
Once she’d caught them all, she called me

to see how the mercury rolled
and roiled, the big beads swallowing

the small, then shivering apart
at the shake of the plate. I watched

them gather and quake, I’d swear I played
all afternoon, poking the beads

shiny as joy, in love with the gleam
and with my mother. And she in turn

Incompetent Cervix

The name sounds hopelessly Victorian—
I’d heard the term and thought of dressing gowns,
ruffled and prim, or suitors waving salts
around a lady on a fainting couch,
not this theater, with its cold table,
its pulleys and knives, not this race to sew
me shut before I spill. Not me. Not then.
But in my present tense, invalid, unstable,
incompetent, I catalog my faults
and hopes. I’m but a flimsy, bulging pouch.
Where is the I I was a day ago?
Behind the drape, the surgeon tugs and frowns
until I’m corseted. Knotted and braced,
I’m to be sent home to bed, chastened and chaste.

Lay Figures

“In his youth… Delacroix had many sessions with female models devoted to activities other than posing.”
—Marie Lathers, Bodies of Art: French Literary Realism and the Artist’s Model

I hadn’t thought about those little men
in years, the wooden models cased in glass
at the art supply store, though I’d linger by them

after school, studying their blank faces
and jointed limbs, wondering what they were for
and who would buy them. Surprising then to find

their forms again in Delacroix’s sketches,
to recognize in a master’s hand the long Os
of their faces and torsos. In one series,