Eloise Klein Healy

from Passing

Asking About You
The Suicide's Numbers

Red Hen Press, 2002

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Asking About You

Instead of having sex all the time I like to hold you and not get into some involved discussion of what life means. I want you to tell me something I don’t know about you. Something about the day before that photograph in which you’re standing on your head. I want to know about softball and the team picture. Why are you so little next to the others? Were you younger? Were you small as a girl? What I want most is to have been a girl with you and played on the opposite team so I could have liked you and competed against you at the same time.

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The Suicide's Numbers

I subtract the dates using pencil and paper
because it’s one take away eight,
eight take away five and the calculation
involves borrowing. I’m too tired.
to do this mentally tonight and even more,
I can’t believe she was only twenty-two.

So I run the numbers again, and yes
she definitely was a very young woman,
her body in the portraits smooth
as a fine-grained print.

She was on to something, she was
beyond technique or costume or the body.
The geometries she captured
would intoxicate a snowflake
with their patterns, with their quick array.

Was she as wise as everybody said?
Or could it be she was falling
from such a great height
and casting every which way to capture
her vision that she hit the ground
before her shadow let her know?

Was that ache caught by her lens
somewhere near the frame
herself intruding or herself escaping?

Francesca Woodman, celebrated for her self-portraits, committed suicide
at the age of 22. Her photographs are collected in Francesca Woodman.


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These are the days that must happen
to you, Mr. Whitman says.

And the nights passing in succession
like images on film—

old movie star moon
filling up each frame then going into hiding.

People don't live long enough
to see the end

of their experiments—
at 24 frames a second it’s soon over—

fireflies in the meadow,
games of children flickering in the park.

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all poems

 www.eloisekleinhealy.com  .  eloisekleinhealy@mac.com