MY MALIGNANT TORTURER
By Cara Peterhansel
He’s sitting on the wooden bench
staring through the latticework
of leaves. The sun’s too bright for him,
too bright for anyone. He digs
his feet into the dusk-grey pebbles,
hollows out two small deep circles,
says that he can sense that someone’s
staring up at him with two
black eyes. I tell him that it’s me but
it seems my voice is foreign to him now.
“Septimus,” I say his name,
but even I don’t hear me. There are
children running in the field
and at each snap of twigs, I feel
it in my chest, the pulsing that he hears,
each snap a separate gunshot.
I think I hear his voice, without
the quivering tremors, “Rezia,”
but he’s still staring at the sun
and now I’m hearing voices too.
I sit beside him and he stiffens.
My head rests on my husband’s shoulder
while he prattles at the sky.
March 8 1915
Today the birds are talking to her in Greek
and the King is hemorrhaging obscenities
from the rosebushes, slipping through
the window I keep shut.
She will not eat this morning, but
I bring her up a plate. She only
ever eats for me—the nurses
My wife, my invalid, keeps company
with bread crumbs and the bed post
canopy, that keeps the light a
Today is the first of the headaches
her head is in her hands, palms
pushing deep into her eye sockets
blocking out the light.
I dowse the lamp and pull across the
window shade, leave the plate on the
night stand, close and latch the door.
May 8 1915
She spoke to me this morning,
sleep-starved mumbles as I handed
her the plate.
She held it in her unwashed hands,
loosely like a sodden sheet,
sat contented for a moment
then flung the plate from her
as if I had set a pot of boiling
water gently in her hands.
I feared an epileptic spasm,
her shoulders shaking so,
I went to get the dustpan. Still,
she lets only me in.
June 8 1915
She asks to go outside
and so we walk about the garden.
Her cheeks flush in the sunlight
She says she thinks that she will write
Cara Peterhansel is a poet from Connecticut. She currently lives and works in Western Massachusetts as a Preschool Assistant Teacher. The poems here come from an unpublished collection of poetry she has been writing focusing on the life and work of Virginia Woolf.