Pouvoirs de l’Horreur

No one frightens me quite like the beautiful
Woman in the tearoom. Always, one finds
There is horror in desire, and beauty in horror:
The rattlensnake’s sound will warm the blood
Quick as a beautiful face, or quicker.
But hers is special dread, for she punctures
The skin of my careful illusion of living.

We perceive only the image; and the image
Gathers a ring of impressions around it:
Mosquitoes swarming a lamp at dusk.
(A thud as one rebounds on the glass.)
Impressions extend their bare, gray arms;
They brush our faces with bloodless fingers.

My incomplete degree hangs
Around my neck like the corpse of a sea-bird;
My doctors’ notes are pinned to my arms,
Their signatures burned with a brand on my skin.
There is no disgrace in disability,
But these cities were built for bodies not like mine.

I have come to prefer the company of trees
And mark the strange lives of insects,
Whose clockwork bodies are beautiful like harpstrings;
And I lull myself into forgetting
That the cities were built for bodies not like mine.

But I try, Mother Diotima, to remember
Things more salubrious, and maintain this remembrance:
That the trees, the harpstring-bodied insects,
The forms pleasing to us, or grotesque,
Life honored and life cast off —
All are an elegant formal language,
A Kleene star of four base pairs;
And this, also, is beautiful.
   But I am not Erdős, O Priestess;
      I cannot wed mathematics.

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