“for it was their injured love that made them do it”
– Milan Kundera
When I cried, I was crying for all of my lifetimes,
& something inside of her knew it. Like maybe
she was remembering me when I was a potato farmer,
in Ireland, & she was holding me after I’d cut my
finger off with an axe, or a wood saw or hoe, & so
she held me tightly as I heaved out my sorrow,
my ache & all my woes. & you know, the stream
of our livingness is a white beam with poppies,
like florid memories, on it. & so she knew I’d been
quite violent, at one point in my journey & even
not quite civil, in this lifetime with her. & she could
seemingly see just how the sin of something floats,
then embeds in the tactile nature of our skin so
we can feel it flaring in us as we reenact it alive
with another. & so she held me then, harder, &
leaned into my face & told me I wasn’t him, not
anymore. & that the old Irish hospital I was in,
all those slipstreams ago, was stone rubble now,
like a collapsed bone skeleton in some green field.
& that the stream of light moving through me,
just now, with her, was inseparable from how we
reconfigure in a body, in a chateau, or in a hotel,
just to awaken again as a new resident, healed alive.
& with somebody we’ve known all along, down
the slipstream of time. & something in me, then,
saw in her face that she was a Scottish field nurse,
at bedside with me. & she was holding out this
hidden washcloth of opposites – of the wounded
& the healed one together – in one form. & so
she pulled one of the poppies off of it, for it was
part narcotic so that it could heal me – so I’d be
more patient & pastoral within it, here in my body,
& she spread the wound all over me, like medicine,
like she was cleansing me with just my own pain.
& washing my body with what comes, just after.
& she pointed, softly, through the window where
together we could see a soft bed of white flower
petals, almond petals. & it felt like the old hospital
bed I’d laid in but, at the same time, it was now.
& I was with the woman who was now my wife.
& the wound of all my lifetimes, that violence,
that resistance to a light most glad of all that
heals & transforms what was pain into deep love,
gave over to an overcoming of that world. & into
a healing into this world, right here & now.
Ken Meisel is a poet and psychotherapist from the Detroit area. He is a 2012 Kresge Arts Literary Fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the Liakoura Prize, and the author of eight poetry collections. Recent collections include: Our Common Souls: New & Selected Poems of Detroit (Blue Horse Press: 2020), Mortal Lullabies (FutureCycle Press: 2018), The Drunken Sweetheart at My Door (FutureCycle Press: 2015). He has work in Rattle, Crab Creek Review, Concho River Review, San Pedro River Review, Panapoly, The McGuffin. His new book, Studies Inside the Consent of a Distance, was published by Kelsay Press in February 2022.