Remnants – I. Massachusetts, 1945

Here is Aggie in Norwood, standing by the old blue spruce and balsam firs. The drooping clothesline hangs outside the frame. It is empty but for her mind’s hand and its delicate touch. Here is her other hand: fingers folded in a hesitant fist. The forefinger is cocked and pointed away from the body. Her knuckles tuck towards her thumb, as if she were holding a coin. Somewhere near the dark soft place of her palm, she holds all her heat. As if that heat were a copper secret keeping her upright. Along her left arm her nerves are taut and expectant: please make this quick. Her skin is watery, it moves over narrow silvery bones. You can see through the cloudy light to her bones: alert, uncomfortable. Stiff and restless like the architecture of antlers.

Somewhere in her house there is a velvet couch, mangy and thinning. See the black skeleton underneath. Touch and touch the soft parts until it comes away in your hand, like hair.

What the cameraman said: The layer of fur sheds; then grows again each year. The furniture was once living. He said: It comes from the gnarled grey bone emerging from the reindeer’s head. You look at the photograph. You look at the hair on your arms: your arm of wool. You consider that you are like the reindeer: you are also made also of hollow hairs.

She is a body. She is a still form. She is like a deer. Her eyes are open forever.

It feels blindly at the braided laundry rope, (looks at you and never looks away), with timidity it sniffs out and courts its own death. It figures it out. It draws in breath. So still it disappears. You cannot kill it with your shot.

Her mouth is closed, a frown perceived as a smile. She sucks on a sore front tooth. Her gaze is in her mouth and it pushes against you.

You know how it feels (to be scared). You look at your hands. Her gaze gets inside you, to the wet wall of your heart. There her mouth attaches to something in you that is soft and mewing and sad. You want. And together you nuzzle, as you gaze on her gaze. Her eyes stare, they stow away something terrible. She is looking past you, through you— like her hand pointing away, tilted and waiting for the last slow click of the shutter.