Tempus Fugue by Jennifer A. McGowan

Tempus Fugue

It’s never wise to make love to a god.
I say love, as if
they understand the concept,
or anything except want and how to take.
Only worship, however perfunctory or bleary-eyed,
freely willed or surrendered, like a body,
appeases. You may find yourself reborn:
tree, river, star, what have you.
I’d say it’s a different sort of freedom,
this altered consciousness, this will
not to remember, if only
I could move. As it is
I’m stuck, a monument to desire.
Which isn’t bad, the flesh-on-flesh,
those twining arms, feet curled round about,
that catch of breath, the final dying sigh–
if it’s all you have. Most of us, however,
have mothers, brothers, lovers
it will be impossible to explain this to
after the last time. And so forth.
Gods alone exist in the vacuum
of self-definition. The rest of us
are defined by others’ eyes and expectations.
Saying that, I’m almost sure I had hands,
hair down to my bum, green eyes,
the works. Now
I’m not what they see. They come to me
with prayers and offerings, as if my scars
were holy, as if to touch something
that has touched the divine offers immunity.
Well guess what. You can pray all you want.
Just don’t expect an answer, or not
the one you were looking for. I don’t
remember faces, but yours will get you in trouble,
I’m willing to bet. You’re too fit, too ripe
for running. Which, incidentally, won’t work. I tried.
Not that I don’t envy you, with the wind in your hair.
I’d give it all, the alleged wisdom,
the blessings, all the blind prayers
to feel the sweet, aching warmth
of the earth beneath my toes again.
Instead of which
I have a half-life, half-death.
A sort of blank immortality;
part of a landscape without a face.

So I’ll outlast you. So what?
I have nothing
to measure myself by. Unlike
when I was a girl/nymph/woman,
when words like “season” had meaning.
When hours had weight. When life
had limits. When time
was the only answer there was.


First published in Life in Captivity (Finishing Line Press, 2011)

Jennifer A. McGowan obtained her PhD from the University of Wales.  Despite being certified as disabled at age 16,  she has published poetry and prose in many magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Rialto and The Connecticut Review.  Her chapbooks are available from Finishing Line Press, and her first collection is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing. Her website can be found at http://www.jenniferamcgowan.com.

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