9.12 / December 2014

Self-Portrait: My Legs

If these legs could talk they’d tell you about Munich.
They’d say ‘Paris. No one says Paris anymore.’
They’d take you on a slow voyage across the channel
from Hoek van Holland to Harwich, drinking all night
with a red-faced East German man who couldn’t hear
nor speak. And the British soldier, his narrow
bed and the smell of the pomade in his hair
which marked me for days.

If these legs could talk. All those late night walks
from E. 7th St. to Sammy Wo’s for a whole
steamed fish split between the two of us,
and its eyes, and its lips, and our lips,

and back even further to the summer
I worked as a cocktail waitress on the island.
I was eighteen. Sometimes I’d take the midnight ferry
to the mainland because I could.
I’d sleep in my sleeping bag near the big lake, on the ground.

And the night, as I made the crossing,
it was just me and the hotel magician below deck,
and he offered to hypnotize me for free.
The floor of the ferry was covered in dead Luna moths.

That trance he put me in lasted for hours, days.
Maybe he never brought me back, maybe I never woke up
and all of the years since have been an illusion,

as when my right leg shattered like a mirror
and they had to put it back together with titanium
rods and screws. You’ll always be in pain,

the doctor said, and yes, my legs would tell you
if they could talk, it’s true.

Diane Seuss’s most recent book, Four-Legged Girl, is forthcoming in October 2015 from Graywolf Press. Her previous collection, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open, won the Juniper Prize for Poetry and was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2010. Seuss is Writer in Residence at Kalamazoo College.
9.12 / December 2014