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from Panic is a Portal by Rusty Morrison

Panic is a Portal (8)

does thinking narrow your way in the portal or widen it?  

a small cake with candles, everyone at the table blowing

is a lonelier memory

a narrower portal than you admit to.

a portal is a straightjacket, a candle in a tin can, a spider web

in a Coke bottle

here, in front of the parking garage, you sit & cover your face with your hands

this is how to be anywhere you want to be, not where you are

‘others’ is everyone walking around you on the sidewalk

you are afraid you’ll wake up one day & find

that ‘others’ will be who you’ve become

Panic is a Portal (4)

where you wrap a wide ribbon around a sharp blade

& hold the ribbon’s end

watch the knife spin free & fall

where it will

observe the direction the knife points

& what may have been marred in the falling

divination must have some risk

for you to trust where it sends you. this morning, it’s pointing

to pleasures:

—savoring your saliva after eating a piece of a dark chocolate

before breakfast

—urinating easily, now that the long illness is over

—walking to the corner store in your sweats & no one looks, neither

frightened of you nor wanting

your face to fill for them some need

in The Lover, Marguerite Duras describes her protagonist

as having been “thrown ahead of herself”

before she was 18. already having taught herself

which feelings were commerce

if demonstrated in her eyes

luring men to her with a portal that offered contagion

they couldn’t resist.

you see The Lover on so many of your friends’ shelves. you don’t

ask them why.

spin the knife in its ribbon, ask again, this time

it lands pointing to a risk—to lure from inside your face, a face

you haven’t seen in your mirror. though it showed itself

in droplets of rain

on your still-dark window this morning

before they became a sheet of water & dissolved.

Panic is a Portal (9)

a portal is the corner store where you go in the morning

disposable gloves on, mask well-secured

the college professor turned refugee

turned shopkeeper holds

in both plastic-gloved palms, your plastic bag of two apples

as though irreconcilable damage would be done

to you both, if he were to do less.

a portal is a raw egg smashed on the sidewalk

you don’t notice

& track home on the sole of your shoe. only later

you see the shape of it gathering dirt

more than will any other part of your carpet.

a portal thickens with use.

BART isn’t loud enough, even right overhead

for you to call out to no one

& not be embarrassed. a portal is the sound

of your not-calling-out

which hasn’t the limitation of your lung’s air

to make it stop. a portal is only one of the apples, the one

you accidentally drop.

it’ll bruise to an over-soft brown, unless

you eat it right now. right now it’s still nearly firm

as you bite, it’s more than a long way

inside of delicious. you ask yourself

how far inside delicious

you let yourself go. at his register

weighing your two apples

the shopkeeper’s eyes told you

you’d drop one, you see it now

in hindsight, his face

wasn’t such a dark-bruised anonymity after all

Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison is co-publisher of Omnidawn since 2001. Her five books include After Urgency (Tupelo’s Dorset Prize) & the true keeps calm biding its story (Ahsahta’s Sawtooth Prize, James Laughlin Award, N.California Book Award, & DiCastagnola Award, PSA). Recent book: Beyond the Chainlink (Ahsahta; finalist for NCIB Award & NCB Award). Currently a fellow, awarded by UC Berkeley Art Research Center’s Poetry & the Senses. Teaching workshops through Omnidawn and elsewhere. Offering private consultations.
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