The Nature of Sin & other poems
By Jacqueline Lucile Tiven.
The Nature of Sin
It was in the line at the market yesterday.
The checkout girl asked me about the pears
on my left arm. Surprised for a second,
because in Manhattan I am rarely asked
to surface out of invisibility, I came stuttering.
“Augustine.” As though it were an invocation.
“His first sin was stealing a pear.”
I explained, “Out of desire. Not because
he was hungry or in need
of fruit.” Her face was so still and
confused: her teeth interrupted somewhere.
Often, I laugh when I have nothing to say.
And I flashed my tattoo one more time
leaving. Maybe she laughed too. And
if that is true then perhaps it is also the case
that we were laughing out of understanding
the same strange discomfort.
To tell the truth I did not know that story
until two years after I had paid $80 for the taupe pears
and their stems next to my body, a bluer green
than the one in the drawing. The stippling
of blood underneath it was pink and convincing
but soon healed off. This was in Ann Arbor. I was eighteen—
No, nineteen, but eighteen when I remember it.
We had walked all day, my friend and I, speaking
to body artists as though we were litigators. We forced
them to draw sample sketches of produce
that we criticized and then refused. And kept walking.
Maybe selectivity is forgivable in context
of the permanence we sought after. Though too
I am sure that we had little sense
of time that wasn’t ours to spend
stuck with ink, pins or whatever was used
to penetrate skin, illustrate, alter it.
She got a beet. We liked the way these renderings
of produce looked. Their line detail. We were excited
to uncover them when they healed. I thought also:
embarrassing but true, of a girl I used to watch
use the elliptical machine at college
and her arm moving back and forth with colored vines
wrapping around it. How she managed to look complicated
even though she was going nowhere. But how to explain that?
We are born out of desire. Not need or reason.
Samples of My Credibility
Let me tell you about one of the resumes
I have falsified.
I had just left Los Angeles
and every few months, I moved
further inland. Just far enough
in the opposite direction of the Pacific Ocean
to be sure that no one had heard of me.
In one of these small, bald towns
beside the desert I poured drinks
on Sunday afternoons.
It was just the hour
when the last few—
the most long winded and somber–
of Church services
could not even bare
The air was thick with fumes of vehicles
moving back towards the city
and away from it at the same time:
a fog so grey and tense
it can only be remembered as blue.
No one came by those days
except four or five of a similar kind
of man. They were not proper farmers
but had fallen somehow
into a life of rising early
to tend land.
I remember them each
appearing so very tall
when they rose from their barstools
to leave or use the washroom.
Now, when I think of this
it is not exactly how it seemed then,
as if all the world rose and surrounded me
so panoramic and grand
but never too difficult to elude.
If you were quiet and moved quickly
between places no one could find out
what life lay behind you. Who knows
whether those large, looming figures
kept or could not discern my secrets.
When they moved, even the land
seemed big and slow. But they might
have not been. Yes. Likely, it had
more to do with their presence.
Or it had to do with me.
Or even less.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Though typically pleasant, Jacqueline Lucile Tiven mumbles when drunk. She has convex ankles and has caught her feet in many shoes, and in many degrees of severity.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, December 13th, 2012.