Always born too late. I know I am just the type
of woman to be a consumptive beauty: more ghostly
than failure, scarlet lips of low-grade fever—
tuberculosis strung up in a valentine parade.
The test was pretty: we called it daisy. It infects me,
it infects me not. It infects me, it infects me not.
Outside the nurses’ bay an actual pile of cattle burning.
Appalling in the fashion of bureaucracy—
disgust in turning open what should be kept inside.
I wanted already to be so abstracted— the gray area
between animal and active threat red with confusion.
Could I get a lip that rosy? Could I cloud
my own meat? I want to be packaged differently.
Not all martyrs burn, not all who burn are martyrs.
It starts in the lungs, like the deep sigh I’ve worked
to turn sympathetic heads. Only deeper.
This poem is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.