You wonder how you got here, Target,

trailing a single finger over the landscape of labels,

waiting for the doctor’s call, mumbling

prayers in this merchandise church,

grabbing cottage cheese, an eyelash curler,

making your way through the Christmas season

parking lot with a plastic bag sagging from each wrist,

looking for the car, scrambling in your purse for keys,

turning the engine on and backing out from the space

so slowly, clay crock filled with yak butter, so slowly

a man curses at you from the shelter of his white

pick-up truck. You see his mouth twisted like ropes,

you think maybe he’s right to yell, maybe you should

learn to drive bitch, but you’re yellow and deflated,

you’re trying to ignore the phone not ringing,

the word hepatoma, a raised blister

your mind grazes every six seconds

because you’ve come from an ultrasound,

from the cold unmoving morning air,

fasting belly husk empty,

waiting room, changing room, dark room,

the narrow bed, warmed jelly, strange topography

fuzzing black and white on screen, holes, spots, shadows,

the paper gown crinkled into a tiny wastebasket.

So you let your hands droop on the steering wheel,

you don’t drive away, you lower the window and

his fuck yous fall to the ground like irrelevant chaff

but his “Mongolian” irks because you need precision,

you want to know what “you fucking Mongolian” means,

how a nationality becomes an epithet,

how a body lacks certainty until death,

how you got here, ambling through the Altai

with sheep herders wearing furred coats, 

now in a yurt piled with crimson and teal-striped blankets,

now on a fiery stove with meat slabs,

now slopes, plateaus,

now with a throng of braying goats and a woman wading

through the steppe, placing one foot in front of the other

with the muscle of a hundred wild horses,

now whipped by the sound you heard only hours ago,

the sound of blood throttling through the portal vein

into the liver like a windstorm.


Lizi Gilad has work published or forthcoming in Melusine, HOOT, Boston Literary Magazine, Halfway Down the Stairs, and Poetica Magazine. 

The seed for this poem was planted during a diagnostic ultrasound. The sound of blood whooshing into the liver transported me to a Siberian steppe. Hours later, an irate man screamed at me, invoking the same geographic region. To me, these distinct events shimmered irresistibly, because as a poet I see threads of connection between seemingly unrelated moments, objects, and words. The piece honors the secret topographies of the body and explores the rugged landscapes we travel internally and externally.



Copyright 2009