Elisa Karbin

Retrograde

Before the dissolve and fugue,
a small quark of clarity
wound in my chest like a noose,
hanged me by the throat:

Lampblack dark, the ink stain
spreads
I know I will wander,
my cleverness cannot keep me.

This figure in my ribs, my own
and perfect shadow, clangs to stinging,
claps the light from my lungs—

I will be a stranger, barefooted
through the fog, a lampless foal.

Rebellion

I.

Dear amygdala, my snare—
dear fracture— these ghosts,
my armature, unravel me.

Roosted deep
in the soft folds of
temporal lobes they hum
a gull-throated murmuring
only I can hear.Unformed

of flesh, they crawl my teeth,
each twitch, every seething thought
is electric like synapses,
metal bulbs boiling

under my skinsweeping
through the blue of me.


II.
Blue-swabbed and sweet, little
manifestations, how unholy
you are, tied by a fog

I can only wrestle against.
You thrum,
undampened—a lover
underwater wanting to surface,
to cocoon within my pitch-

tongued breast.Small pocket
of plastic madness— I reject you

from my palm, from each
fold of my pintucked brain—
I rebuke you storm,
you locust throng.


III.
Like a throng, the curtains
are locust wings beating
the moonlight’s slant refrain.

It is habit to weave shut
the making of another
bright hour.
I am lost

among the haunting. These
little spectral lap dogs, little
tethered sheets, strain through

my prefrontal cortex and
the centimetered slick-
skinned spread
of capsules and tablets,
a tipping claw.


IV.
Strange claw, queer
eyelid snag. Each cc
a stitch along my lashes.
This is blindness willed.

This is the soothing
scratch.Habit now
to put hand to mouth, to fill
my cup halfway and
swallow deeply.

The hang-nail itch
and catch in my throat
evaporates to vapor—

the bodies in my
hammered chest
lust softer.


V.
Soft luster of ghosts are
the imprints of bodies
hatched from me, sewn

flesh to bone, they
are marrowed within me—their
blood is mine,
tender little matchsticks
who prick the darkness
they carry.Potters
clay to armature,

into the birth, these imprints
of bodies are stacked
like logs in the cellar of me:
I cannot ask them to leave.


VI.
Left in the wax-light
of them, I wane.
Everything is a weapon
in the hands of madness.

Every second, another
dull blade dragging
across the skin
of the hour, and how
they bleed past—

hand to hammer
to hippocampus— they
caul my lips, vein
my unsteady eye, wrap
me in their hermit’s shawl.


VII.
Obscure shawls,
they hermit in me,
make a water bowl of me,
lap up my sides
and spill. Unpick me.

I used to wish them gone
I used to wish I were wedded
again to the bed,webbed

clean in venom and down.
Now, I wish the voices
invisible, scrubbed of their choral drone—

I’ve pled like a pet, purred enamel-
clean. But still, all that’s left
is the sound, the snare.

Karbin Photo
Elisa Karbin’s poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in The Journal, West Branch and Blackbird, among others. She earned her MA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she is now a PhD candidate in poetry. She currently serves as fiction editor for cream city review and as a contributing poetry editor for Great Lakes Review. You can visit her online at www.elisakarbin.com