Fainting Couch

Hailey Leithauser

O sinking of silk!
O padded brocade
of personal feather!
I say, let’s bring
them back, the swans
in the spine, I say who
even knows how to
sigh any more, how
position a wrist to lie
wilted and cool
as a cloth on
a forehead, I say
where are those wan,
vertiginous women
of arsenic skin who
rationed like
diamonds the solacing
oxygen; how like
willows they were! How
like bendable arrows,
hysterical sachets, combustible
marshmallows, I say
let’s flush out the wrens
in the lungs, the doves
in the bloodstream; I’m too
sturdy by half, I’m overdefended;
a pillow
would suit me, horsehair
and velvet, bolster
or stuporous lumbar, I
say the plaint in my pelvis
is a nimbus enveloped,
a conga untested, say
unbutton my bosom, I
am open for business.

Hailey Leithauser is the author of Swoop (Graywolf Press, 2013). She has recent or forthcoming work in 32 Poems, AGNI, Ecotone, the Hopkins Review, and the Yale Review.

Fainting Couch appears in our Winter 2017 issue.