This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Zoë Hitzig.
Perhaps a detailed appendix will do.
On the measurement of birthweight
in this environment. Triangulate
the measure across facility records. What
is record, I ask you. Neonatal
weight loss is known to be quite severe.
Who did not lose 10% (of something)
within 24-48 hours of being born? Is
there reason to trust maternal recall
in this setting. Given the centrality
of this measure please test there is no
clustering—around round numbers—
that the number of deaths accords roughly
with regional averages—that the data
satisfy Benford’s Law, that they could
not have been invented in the bedlam
of birth, of being born. And to record?
Why the forensic attitude is a question
I’ve learned to no longer ask. Here, a
new year, we are on a health mission.
We have helical insignia on our lapels.
We have a census; we have maps, we have
museum. These institutions code what we
owe only incompletely. There may be pockets
of space that destroy the information falling
into them. Those would form evidence
of a similar kind. Evidence of a similar
paradox, a paradox of information.
I am trigger happy as the horizon
of a black hole. Today I am a fantastically small
coefficient. Yesterday I was helical as hellfire.
Always I feel at home in acid rain, it burrows
into pores to locate the core of me, impurity
joining the spine with all its familial plasmic
fluids. One rainy day, you will find me
naked but for the black shroud of my own
ambition, folded in a geometry you have
seen before. As that night, remember when?
Coming home I couldn’t in my compromise
stand up to gravity stepping out of the taxi,
fell, held onto the grate of the sewage drain
like a handle to wring out my neck and
look up at you. This is how I will remember
you you said and you did not mean to say
something hurtful. We are full of saying,
coding rhymes, one dog-tag dropping
into a bin of them, after the division
enters the system, entered by whom, by
UNIQ_ARMY_ID // DOB // HOME-
TOWN // YRS_SERVED // by near-tragic
longing for uncompromised completeness.
When you find me in that naked geometry
of compromise I will tell you I never lied
to you, I will tell you I cannot to you or
in general lie, tell you I cannot even if
I wanted to lie about all that I have forgotten.
Division is a form of forgetting.
You know Photograph 51 that breathy
out-of-focus evidence, discovery
of the geometry of information.
See the scatter diffracted the strands
antiparallel the curvature the crucial
crystallographic patterns of restriction
restricting parameters—our iron-clad
cardinality is bound up in this hellfire
of helices. As I struggle to zip my skirt
arms contorted, zipper behind me,
light patterns inching across my wall,
I am Rosalind Franklin who in
the same motion discovered a bulge, her
skirt would not zip, friends asked if she
could be pregnant. In a way she was—
violated by x-rays, pregnant and bulging
with division. Her uterus absorbing
the shock of discovery not as a martyr
but as a fantastically small coefficient.
How many times such attacks have
been leveled against me. You think your
self so self-contained. Abstemious with
regards to influence. As if to record
is to be neutral. How are you doing today?
“I am good, though ‘female’.”
Division occurs when we exit with or
without intention one ruthless enclosure
for another. As when I exit your kitchen
every Sunday after you have painted
for several hours a portrait of me reading
the same page over and over I leave my
best blouse on the coatrack between sittings—
black silk. Thick knuckle-sized knots
for buttons. Is it too warm in here, what tone.
Your stacks of inverted-color photographs
of travels, of ephemera, photographs taken
by one camera through the viewfinder
of another. That’s Prussian blue below your
lower lip. If a machine were to photo-shoot
division day it would also have two lenses
in inexact relation to one another. I have
learned to thrive on these inexact relations
stemming from my own vexed dualism,
from my understanding that the number
attached to me at birth was all too trust-
worthy, from my acknowledgment that
division occurs on day one for too many,
from my desire to be washed on that day
divine day of divisive resolution in acid
rain, misguided forensics, UNIQ_ID //
DOB // HOMETOWN, I am
a fantastically small coefficient but not
yet small enough, let me be self let me
be finally fantastically alone.
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