THE OCULARIST by Alise Alousi
The man bent over the new eye, drew its capillaries.
He graduated from art school, but seemed normal.
Collared shirt, task lamp, face round and serious
as my father’s. He knew I dated artists,
but the room was small, and there was no time for that dance.
He shook his pen, made it rattle.
I thought of a snake curled in a shoe.
As a child, we differed on what was normal.
I wanted to play outside; my father called it
running the streets. I imagine myself then, winged,
a knotty -haired girl, swift, limbs and clothes loose.
Ayuni, he’d beg on his gentler days, shaking his head.
I’d pretend I didn’t see him, follow the shadows
that asked me to dance. The first days after surgery
my father could see through his eye’s absence,
a swirl of colors. Once a famous writer told me
that’s where she found poems—behind her
closed eyes visions waited like people exiting a train.
His, replaced by a black patch when he danced
at my brother’s wedding. His last months, I tried
to make things seem normal, removed the eye
with a small suction cup, held it under water,
cleaned into its perfect curve. In its absence,
red and white streaks looked back at me.
We stopped spending time with the details.
The deep brown-black cornea, its fixed pupil.
Unless one studied hard, they wouldn’t find its flaw:
it didn’t move. I think of this person I met only once
like a still-life painting, among the glistening fruit,
the sliver of the everyday, their memory, an anomaly.
The small brick building on a busy road I drive by.
Imagine a man inside, a row of eyes before him to perfect.
The challenge unchanging as the palette
of grays, greens, brown, blacks and blues.
How to match what’s gone,
save the last bit of his art for the veins.