Teach me, they say,
the women with childbirth
three months behind them,
one with a dead baby and tears
the other come an hour down the highway
to find her car towed, her shirt front wet
with milk, and no money in her pocket.
Teach me, says Ruth, whose secret
is identity, pale face but she a blooded
who says no, you can’t, when she doesn’t
Teach me, says the toe
leaking blood under the nail,
Teach me, says the rigid carapace,
solid, sealed on all sides
so the pulse amplifies, stirs
as currents of fire in the toe.
Teach me, babbles the darning needle
or the drill in its pan of water
burning over, settling on the stove.
And my job, to scald, bore, hold steady
under the light, the singe, the push,
the steady pressure, eyes open, the flash,
the bubble of blood,
the maroon gush, the icy relief.
Teach me, says the hole in the nail,
tiny, a door, and around it, rust, mold,
acrid release of what’s sealed,
a tender probe to open, to hurt.