by Sara Backer
Iritis: my left pupil bleeding deep within itself.
Scorching light reveals red fire that has me
in a headlock, pulls my whole body to bed, to pillow,
to soft clean flannel in a color someone named otter.
I try to read through the blur—a cyclops rubbernecking.
I close my eyes and succumb to the narrative of slow jazz
through the circle of fifths, its infinite integration
of dissonant saxophone, bass, piano, and drums.
I’m saturated in the blues, worn thin. Losing myself
bit by bit, I’ve become an outlier, an anomalous case study
of the HLA-B27 gene, dutifully competing with the healthy,
falling further behind. What would change if I were the one
to finger cloth samples, consult wheels with every tint and hue
human eyes can distinguish to determine if an iris is coffee or mink,
a pupil’s blackness coal or crow or shark—? Probably not much—
naming darkness doesn’t help us see in the dark.
I don’t recognize the bird-flutter outside,
but when I hear its shimmery song, my mind
provides the dappled chest of a hermit thrush.
No big wheels for me—but one deep well.
Published in the 2018 Hippocrates Prize Anthology