9 | amber dipietra

scars, end of an email thread


– 1. Seam that indicates a previous opening

The pressurized air, red lights blinking in the blackness, not unlike the O.R. Tilting world in a capsule. I tried to work on my lecture for Monday, but instead composed these notes to you-on the fold-down plastic seat tray.

I asked to see them, whispered it. I want you to think about how it went because from what I’ve learned of you, you’ll write a poem about it, weave some gorgeous cryptic metaphors around it. Don’t. They’ll wind around you and take you apart later. Don’t let yourself be taken apart again.

The whole thing was a proposition based on looking. Go in where there is an opening, with the intent to resurface gaze from the inside out. Would’ve been less risky if it was looking for sex or love. No, this was collision, then shatter and recombine. The inverse of every successful joint operation and equivalent to all sidelong glances-passersby trying to piece together a skeleton that’s been broken and then slipped back in its skin.

Watch us both play the roles. How it began; I wrote an email: a cane. You, an email: a wheelchair. Subject line. Orthopedic arrangements and functional encounters. Send/Receive.

How we got here. Click though white screen with blue tabs. Surgery suites, halls of white lights, metallic tubes, the plane and then. The premise that we could know each other better, from the bones… Light box, black and white, double-expose.

I am facing the passenger side when you pick me up at the station. You do not turn your head to me from the driver’s side. I get in and face forward. Cross-hatched cables, the light rail sailing above the street. Now, I do not turn to look at you. Cervical fusions, natural and performed.

When you grind the brakes down into the vast asphalt stuff of your Southern California apartment parking lot, we take turns. Follow you up the sidewalk. After having minced my way up the curb ramp. You don’t seek out the ramp, though your knee barely flexes for your foot to clear the curb. You usher me in first, through the door, on to the beige carpet. Suddenly, vision is a three-way mirror, with vertigo. Stop-motion, wobble over the threshold, pause so as not to jerk. Not what was expected, not what was hoped, as with tracks of light through water. Cardboard boxes stacked along the walls of the rented apartment. No pictures on the walls. When we first began conversing, I knew you were going overseas on fellowship.

Dinner, plain angel hair and you a small breast of chicken. You believe sugars will make it more viscous, I think nightshades aggravate the cells. And then because we’d come all this way, typed in so many rectangular boxes, it seemed easier to carry on than to speak or reject.

I asked it like something out of a maudlin Hollywood script. Watch through webbed glass as two suicide-attempts meet and finger the gashes on each other’s wrists. That’s not me, that’s not you. (I won’t say us; though we are of a set). It’s about making careful, intelligent lines around what has already been busted. Even if some sense of myself has been obliterated, watching you move-the way I move.

And I whispered it. Leaning in and you let it happen. Like you told me, now I realize. Insisting the doctors agree to milder sedation, despite their doubts about your ability to be still when they went in for the more major replacements. A knee, a hip. (An ankle and wrist that can’t be fixed, too delicate for implants.) Saws and drills, shunts to drain the site did not make you afraid. Only what it meant, to be put under…

My hands slid up your outer thighs, resting on the inside of the sides of your underwear, against the thin keloid that ran red down each of your hips. You stared straight ahead and did not see me. A diminished space between your bones where, for years, you’d been renegotiating structure.

I looked into your face and there was the surgeon fitting the silicon into the ground-out sockets of your pelvis. Heard the torquing of my kneecap, the probe in the incision.

My knees rested against your thighs, my legs spread around you, your forehead close to mine. I moved my hands, repositioned them over your pubic bone, let the lines on my kneecaps fall against the ones on your hips.

I said, what are you thinking and you said, in that voice that was modulated into the distance, like an actress from a bygone day blipping across a screen, what do you mean?

Us sitting here like this, I meant. With my hands inside your underwear. Waiting for something to move inside me, the humming AC in your strange, white living room.

You said,

It’s fine.

– 2. An opening that has closed over.


amber dipietra is a poet and disability culture worker in San Francisco. Her interests include tracking the orthopedic body in real time, personal fossil records, ¡accion mutante! politics, and warm waters. Poems and prose pieces by Amber have appeared or are forthcoming in Make, A Chicago Literary Magazine, Mirage Period[ical], Tarpaulin Sky, Mrs. Maybe and TRY!. Visit her blog at http://www.adipietra.blogspot.com/