— The Jewish Ethnographic Program, 1912
The placenta a clicking projector. Your blood in the theater of mine, reclining. - She looks like you, my mother says of the 20-week sonogram. You’re mostly bones and brain, but maybe that’s all it takes: inheritance settles first in the densest tissue. - Sound waves lick the darkness, seeking what absorbs them. Meanwhile, propaganda streams through the blood, a red pulse on the screen: at last, a bra that fits, a better suitcase, personalized vitamins. A ticker of my own face in the lens. - You don’t know how to buy what’s sold to you. Instead, you cut a pattern from the scraps at hand, a golem-suit, a dream-dress. - Now we’re in the feature, my directorial debut: I look up all I can so you’ll resemble the winter sky, or these eighteenth century cornices, or those sparrows perched in a tree adorned with lace of shredded plastic bags, or this late snow that catches light but disappears when I step outside. - I cannot edit this reel: some moments are slow and so I eat, and you and I pass the time that way, the highs and lows of carbohydrates dissolving, lipids’ silent fizzle like a fireworks finale. - Other times I want to stay awake all night so that you will have the sharp jaw of my loneliness, or the full cheeks of Jupiter’s ecliptic. Daily, too, I read the news or walk past crumpled bodies in the city’s tunnels, hold my breath so that you won’t resemble what I’ve learned to call despair. Or more likely: so you’ll resemble me and my selective heart. - A kind of surveillance, I admit. You’ll collect your data, prepare your dossier, and be, I hope, merciless. As you know now, a person can hide from many things, but not from the ribbon of images unspooling before her eyes. Nor from the echoes that trace her shape in the dark, or her own unaccountable wish to be seen.
Leah Falk is the author of To Look After and Use (Finishing Line Press, 2019). Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, FIELD, Electric Literature, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, she lives in Philadelphia and directs programming at the Writers House at Rutgers University-Camden.
About the Series: These poems are a part of our ongoing series exploring isolation, exile, and “The Everyday Pandemic.” With the arrival of COVID-19 new realities emerged. Isolation became ubiquitous. Everyday movement suddenly came with great risk. The spaces that once brought order and safety became malleable and uncertain. Throughout this series it is our hope to create an alternative conversation to the dominant COVID-19 discourse: one that captures the daily toll of life through the pandemic from the perspective of writers and artists who are familiar with the experience of isolation and exile. With this in mind, we’ve collected stories, poems, nonfiction essays, and digital art from writers and artists from all walks of life and from all around the globe.