I was playing again on the stone stairs of the castle
where I’d grown up a couple of lives ago.
I could hear the hiss of seconds passing.
My mother sat as I’d left her, among mothers,
aiming a thread through a needle’s eye.
All was as it should be. I shouted grave orders
to the dolls, my prisoners. Clearly
I was still afraid of my largeness,
my separateness, my long
horrible arms striking out.
Supplicants and prey. All was as it ever is.
The hissing sweeping hand. I turned on a top stair.
Open the door, and the world’s silver wires
sizzle—long lit hallways with workers
hawking their nations’ wares.
A passing-by of shoes with gold buttons. So like
my own. I step through the door . . . hissing sweep
of my gown. I open my eyes. Trust now:
the body will know what I am
and what to do about it.
Nance Van Winckel’s fourth collection of poetry is Beside Ourselves (Miami University Press, 2003). She's received two NEA Poetry Fellowships. New poems appear in Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, The American Poetry Review, New Letters, The Massachusetts Review, and Poetry. She’s also published three books of short fiction, most recently Curtain Creek Farm (Persea Books, 2000), and is the recipient of a 2005 Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship. She teaches in the MFA programs at Eastern Washington University and Vermont College.