Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2015  Vol. 14 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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back E.B. PAIGE

The Razor in the Apple
     St. John proposes to Jane Eyre

One does not choose the shape of his ordeal.
Ringletted blonde. Olive-bearing dove,

like St. Francis she comes with exquisite kindness,
palm-up to the lowly,
the birds and dogs—

When she lays her hand on my arm to ask if we're friends,
I am a body
made of hell

and I want—


Tonight I will remember the scent I caught as she leaned in,
sweet and clean as a quartered apple,

and feel the ghost of me darkening to flesh
beneath the coverlet.

Her loveliness is the spring green of morning glory vines,
all new shoots and promise,

sinuous as temptation.

She is the fruit that falls to rot
as you bite down. And I have loved her
eyes on me, I have loved—


The thin hours past midnight are wracked with penance:
I sleep hard on the floorboards like a dog,
shoulders ribboned with lashes.

Cousin, you must know there is no overcoming the wildness
of the body, the animal pumping
of blood and breath;

no way to use it for its purpose without suffering
the horrors of pleasure.

You ask why I want you for a wife. We are alike
in purpose:

I am in need of some torture by which I may prove myself,
and you wish only to be an instrument
of God before dying.

Come, let us go to a land hot as hell and teeming with devils;
our marriage bed will be made of white sheets
strewn with splintered hawthorn.

When I undress your plain, starved-small frame
I trust I shall find your body an instrument
I may mortify myself with:

your spine a flail barbed with ribs,
and no softness anywhere for comfort.

Tell me, who does not want
to be held down and made to feel
their punishment?

Who does not want
to hurt?  end  

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