Mise en Abyme
While the others clustered in
the inkwell of shade made by a beach umbrella,
we walked to the edge of the peninsula
just past the marble quarry.
The vast white slabs
burned in the midday heat,
burned at our feet. The crevices and indentations
that had just cradled tatters of waves
now dried and densely filled with salt,
ancient salt, scouring our callouses.
At the edge, I immersed myself
in the blue. Because the sky was
cloudless, I couldn’t be sure
which element drenched my skin,
unbearable organ. The water,
then the slab. Immersion, then pain,
immersion, pain—and what had I desired?
and what had I seen?
No stone in my periphery,
no ships in the timeless clarity before me,
the blue spilling into itself and back,
and a voice speaking—
it began as hers
calling out to Alexander,
to his treasure
in the centuries-hollowed
drumlin below us—
then it morphed and hid in the shade
the same shape and color
as the shade of the umbrella,
made by the creature shaped like an umbrella,
its hood, hollow—is that the head
or heart of the thing?—and therefore
made of shade, structured to cradle
that dark mystery—voice
blotting itself until
it dissolved as everything else
into the invisible
crease of blue
only to return to me
as myself without a body—
immersion, then pain.
On the hot slab of history
and the creature below me
collected its things
in the shade of it.
Lisa Hiton reads “Mise en Abyme”
Lisa Hiton Lisa Hiton’s first book of poems, Afterfeast, has been selected by Mary Jo Bang to win the Dorset Prize and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press (October 2021). She holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Boston University and an M.Ed. in Arts in Education from Harvard University. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Common, Lambda Literary, The Paris-American, Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and New South among others. She has received the AWP Kurt Brown Prize, the Esther B Kahn Scholarship from 24Pearl Street at the Fine Arts Work Center, and multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize. She’s the author of the chapbook Variation on Testimony. She’s the senior poetry editor of The Adroit Journal. She is a founder and co-director of Queer Poem-a-Day at the Deerfield Public Library.