Chuck Carlise

Body rendered still; empty as kindling, dry as gravel.
Not gravel, stone. Not stone, shadow.

If by body we mean a record of events, a past growing
& reforming around fault lines & notches of bone.

Stand far enough away, & categories are all that matter: blue-brown
river, cathedral shadow, alley, lamp post, woman, evening.

Try not to breathe as you think of the lack of breathing.
The sternum retracts, frustration of heat in the throat.

Imagination of need becoming need.  Becoming
panic. The way suggestion seeds the physical world.

The way the physical world seeds memory—first few notes
of a tongue-tip song, the way a lover's body seems to fit.

If by body, here, we mean space compressed, a shift in light.
Slipping through an open door in a blind-dark familiar room. 

The difference between knowing & believing. An act
of faith, where the object of faith is unimportant.

Where shadows insist no, this face, these eyes, this mouth. 
& no amount of waiting elicits a response.






This poem is part of an extended project tentatively titled The Most Kissed Face in the World, about an unidentified girl who drowned herself in the Seine in the 1880s. A coronor took an unauthorized death mask before burying her, and unexpectedly it became something of a sensation across the continent for the early part of the 20th century, culminating in its being selected as the face for the Rescue Annie CPR training dummies in the 1960s. The project is part narrative, part lyric, part autobiography, part imaginative essay, and as yet unfinished.