Saturday, February 9, 2008

Blister (100x20)


He had planned to bring old sneakers with him, but in the morning rush had just grabbed his bag with the new sneakers. By the end of warmups he could feel the blister forming. Later, while they were doing defensive slides, he could feel the stabs of pain every time he stopped moving. After the suicides, he could barely walk. In the locker room, he pulled off his blood-soaked sock to reveal a loose flap of skin the size of a silver dollar, the cracked pink skin underneath, the red radial lines converging on the pulpy mass of bloody tissue.

Process Reflection:
The trigger was “blisters.” As I was thinking about it I remembered on many occasions seeing my sons’ feet after the first day of basketball practice, and wondering how in the world they would even be able to walk the next day. There are several larger essays lying in wait behind this exercise, one of which would have to do with sports, the disproportionately large place they occupy in the American cultural landscape, the sacrifices that athletes are called upon to make, and the ways in which those sacrifices become ritualistic rehearsals for the more substantive sacrifices we make as adults. All of which puts me in mind of a terrific poem by Anne Sexton, also a meditation from a parent’s point of view of the sacrifices a child must learn to make:

Pain for a Daughter

Blind with love, my daughter
has cried nightly for horses,
those long-necked marchers and churners
that she has mastered, any and all,
reigning them in like a circus hand--
the excitable muscles and the ripe neck;
tending this summer, a pony and a foal.
She who is too squeamish to pull
a thorn from the dog's paw,
watched her pony blossom with distemper,
the underside of the jaw swelling
like an enormous grape.
Gritting her teeth with love,
she drained the boil and scoured it
with hydrogen peroxide until pus
ran like milk on the barn floor.

Blind with loss all winter,
in dungarees, a ski jacket and a hard hat,
she visits the neighbors' stable,
our acreage not zoned for barns;
they who own the flaming horses
and the swan-whipped thoroughbred
that she tugs at and cajoles,
thinking it will burn like a furnace
under her small-hipped English seat.

Blind with pain she limps home.
The thoroughbred has stood on her foot.
He rested there like a building.
He grew into her foot until they were one.
The marks of the horseshoe printed
into her flesh, the tips of her toes
ripped off like pieces of leather,
three toenails swirled like shells
and left to float in blood in her riding boot.

Blind with fear, she sits on the toilet,
her foot balanced over the washbasin,
her father, hydrogen peroxide in hand,
performs the rites of cleansing.
She bites on a towel, sucked in breath,
sucked in and arched against the pain,
her eyes glancing off me where
I stand at the door, eyes locked
on the ceiling, eyes of a stranger,
and then she cries. . .
Oh my God, help me!
Where a child would have cried Mama!
Where a child would have believed Mama!
she bit the towel and called on God
and I saw her life stretch out. . .
I saw her torn in childbirth,
and I saw her, at that moment,
in her own death and I knew that she

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