I was playing again on the stone stairs of the castle
_ _ where I’d grown up a couple of lives ago.
_ _ _ _ I could hear the hiss of seconds passing.
_ _ My mother sat as I’d left her, among mothers,
aiming a thread through a needle’s eye.
All was as it should be. I shouted grave orders
_ _ to the dolls, my prisoners. Clearly
_ _ _ _ I was still afraid of my largeness,
_ _ my separateness, my long
horrible arms striking out.
_ _ _ _ *
Supplicants and prey. All was as it ever is.
_ _ The hissing sweeping hand. I turned on a top stair.
_ _ _ _ Open the door, and the world’s silver wires
_ _ sizzle—long lit hallways with workers
hawking their nations’ wares.
A passing-by of shoes with gold buttons. So like
_ _ my own. I step through the door…hissing sweep
_ _ _ _ of my gown. I open my eyes. Trust now:
_ _ the body will know what I am
and what to do about it.
Nance Van Winckel is the author of nine poetry collections, the newest of which is The Many Beds of Martha Washington (Lynx House Press, forthcoming 2021), and five books of fiction, including Ever Yrs, a novel in the form of a scrapbook (Twisted Road Publications, 2014), and Boneland: Linked Stories (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013). She teaches in Vermont College’s MFA in Writing Program and is visual poetry editor of Poetry Northwest. Her writing has appeared in the Pushcart Prize anthology, The Southern Review, AGNI, Poetry Northwest, The Kenyon Review, FIELD, The American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of two NEA poetry fellowships, the Washington State Book Award, the Paterson Fiction Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Gordon Barber Poetry Award, a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, and three Pushcart Prizes, she lives in Spokane, Washington. (updated 04/2021)