Containing It


Containing It

The whole way down the subway steps she thinks of cutting herself.

As she mounts the train,  she feels
flesh at her knuckles, the arm of an older black woman
pressed against her, her dark skin as cool and sweet and ineffably
unexpectedly soft as a cloud.

Still her mind finds out the fine lines
it imagines peeling back from her wrist or throat
like the cover
of an opening book.

Swaying with the crowd, she tries to force consciousness elsewhere.
How much she’d like some tea.  Strong.  Milky.
Except that maybe it’s all the tea that’s the problem; some chemical reaction–
Still she wants it.

Depression is the anger turned inward.
Just tell yourself you’re mad at him.
Just say that you do too blame him.

She wants the tea so much she can almost taste it,
only the tea leaves in her mind brew a briny
greyed puddle.  She pictures the puddle in the country,
beneath a willow, behind a hedge, in the shadow of a stone wall.
It is a place that never gets much sun, a small triangle at quarter to noon.
The wall is made of hundreds of stones
joined simply by corresponding shape,
the weight of each other’s gravity,
a long time together.

Too bright outside.  She steps around a man made of angles, his elbows knobs,
orange plastic cup for change, grey stubble, and next to him,
a smooth coffee-colored guy pushing a wire cart around the
sidewalk’s gutted pools.  “Gillette,” he shouts.  “Schick, Remington—”

She keeps her eyes down, keeps
walking, but she hears in the hawked
brand names the reflection of the men, the silvered packages,
the stacked blades.

Maybe if she just buys some.
Not to use.
To stare down at
in the dark rumple of paper bag.

It will be a dry brown bag, its lip folded and re-folded
until, finally, it assumes the softness
of flesh.

She imagines herself looking inside the bag repeatedly, hiding it,
unhiding it, curling it vaguely closed, uncurling
it into a weighted vacuity.

But maybe it will help.
To just buy some.
To look at only,
to look at in a soft brown bag.


This is not autobiographical!  It is the revision of an older piece, which I am posting for dVerse Poet Pubs Poetics prompt on temptation, hosted by Mary Kling.   I’ve been taking a bit of a blogging break to work on larger projects–though mainly I find myself catching up on a great deal of practical things.  I am getting ready to really work on the big projects soon!  (Ha.)  

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24 Comments on “Containing It”

  1. Mary Says:

    Oh this is really intense, Karin. I could feel the draw…almost irresistible of cutting. Of depression. Of repeating….the pattern. Of buying it and having that brown paper bag.

  2. brian miller Says:

    geez….def intense…i have known some cutters but this goes across that to all temptation…we feel ourselves taking these little baby steps…i can had it, i wont use it…it will just make me feel better…ugh…love the emphasis on touch early on and the feel of the ladies arm…

  3. Adura Ojo Says:

    Hmmm…pretty deep piece. I’d imagine just like the cutting itself…or the thinking of it…a story well told.

  4. claudia Says:

    heck k. this is a fantastic piece…great emotional density and really love the images, esp. in the tea stanza…also the lips of the bags folded and re-folded until it assumes the softness of flesh…dang…awesome write on a tough topic

  5. zongrik Says:

    you realize of course that the symbolism in the first line – mounting the train, and the symbolism in the last line – looking in the brown box…hmmmm….shall i go on??? LOL toooo kewl.

    sexy hits the streets

  6. Oh this is so strong, and certainly very real to many I think, Temptation to self destruction … and just to buy some blades to look at… (knowing were it would lead) like an alcoholist buying wine just to keep… Scary when we become slaves to the temptations. (and I love how you introduced the razors)

  7. Striking contrast between her thoughts of tea and her thoughts of self-harm. As others have commented: intense.

  8. David King Says:

    To me this seems authentically imagined in that it gels with what I have read and heard from disturbed youngsters. A powerful piece that has a lot to say about contemporary society.

  9. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    A wonderful poem, and so convincing that it’s scary..

  10. hedgewitch Says:

    There is an inner darkness in this that wraps its shadow around every word, a pall of that dead feeling inside which cries for some sort of red relief. Very fine work, k. I can’t imagine ever being there, but we all have our own puddles and brown paper bags, and the temptation to give in is always there.

  11. Kelvin S.M. Says:

    …creepy & haunting… sometimes curiosity is better shut off… smiles… best of lucks for the larger projects…

  12. cloudfactor5 Says:

    This piece has a quiet roar of intensity I will not soon forget, You deftly handle a tough subject, self-mutilation through & by way of a cutting addiction, that many would rather not even acknowledge exists ! another dangerous course that temptation unchecked can follow, fantastic write !! I wish you success on your larger projects !!

  13. brian miller Says:

    happy mothers day k…

  14. Oh my, I actually reacted physiologically to this one. Grateful to say this has never been my experience, but I had a friend who went through this and eventually died of bulimia. Just heart-rending and a very clear picture of the struggle that, I suppose, can be reduced to a common denominator if we just fill in our own personal demons. Whew!

  15. this truly saddened me because of friends that suffer like this, and want to bleed themselves outside themselves ~ Blessings k

  16. Akila Says:

    very intense and well opens up the darkness of the feeling!

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