For each day of National Poetry Month one of our fellows will explore the breadth of poetry in three ways: through a question from another fellow, through a poem and through a writing prompt, #writetoday.
Tarfia Faizullah asks, Do you think it’s possible to stop writing about the past?
R.A. Villanueva answers, No. And if we’re really honest with ourselves as writers, I don’t think we really want to stop remembering—to Eternal Sunshine our way around the aftermaths that matter.
Perhaps the reality is that the past makes and mars us in ways we can neither control nor anticipate. Better to find some “ceremony of words to patch the havoc” than to live as amnesiacs. Better to dive into the wreck than try to forget the sinking.
We were well down the ventral axis
when Fr. Luke noticed. Our cuts
steady through the skin, our scalpels
already through the thin give
of the sternum. With each bullfrog
pinned to its block and double-
pithed by nail, he had by then
talked us clean through the lungs,
past a three-chambered heart couched
in tissue and vascular dye. We must
have been deeper among the viscera
when he heard us laughing,
not at the swarm of black eggs
spilling from the oviducts to
slime the cuffs of our blazers,
but at a phallus, jury-rigged from
foil and rubber bands hanging off the crucifix,
hovering above a chart of light-
independent reactions. This was nothing
like the boys lowing through recitation
their antiphon for the layman whose wife
we heard was trampled by livestock
over Trimester break. Nothing at all
like Sr. Mary being made to face
the bathhouse scene from Spartacus in slow-
motion or her freshmen rewinding again
and again stock films of chariot drivers pitched
from their mounts, dragged
to their ends only to float backwards,
hands bound up once more
in the reins. The Dean of Men confessed
he knew of no prayer or demerit
that could redeem such disgrace,
could conceive of no greater sin
against the Corpus. Transgressors, all of you,
he said and closed the door behind him,
refusing to look at us or the thing
which seemed to shimmer and twitch
with each frog’s reflex kick against our forceps.
He held us there far beyond
the last bell, waiting for just one among us
to want forgiveness or for a single boy
to take back this mockery of the body
our Lord had made.
Originally published in AGNI, #70