In the Course of Unwinding

Rynn Williams

In the slow unraveling of a marriage,
one can feel the draft at odd moments,
like the shirt too short when you bend over,
the way it rides up, exposing that whole, soft,
private terrain at the small of the back—
(when did this shirt get too small anyway?)
there are snags, places where the fabric pulls
and catches, the comfortable folds and pleats,
worn thin, give way, and you’re standing there
with your skin in the raw breeze.

There are moments when the static will snap,
little lights going off, synapses firing in the body’s brain,
creating a new lightness, the limbs
with the feel of new limbs, the hair standing up
on the back of the neck and even the underparts,
nipples tightening against the cold, shoulders tightening,
the body a great statue unveiled, a new bronze figure
leaning into the elements, awaiting its patina,
its patience, its birdshit, its snow.

But the unwinding. It begins from the inside.
At first nothing more than a shifting, a motion
deep beneath the calm and familiar surface,
like a shifting of tectonic plates,
or an uncoiling, undulating, like a tide, shifting,
and all the separate stitches, all the threads
rubbing up against each other, all the ribs
and the purls and the seams, the dropped sleeves
and the damp mohair and the scratchy wool easing,
the yarn unraveling and the spool in the center
twirling on its axis like a shy ballerina.
I remember how it felt to stand naked on the rock
with the water in front of me, the pounding water,
the bruises on my body and no one there to see them,
and the freedom of the first foot lowered
toward the cold spring, mist hitting the rock
and the diffusion like a cloud, a rainbow, a veil.
I remember the sight of my body in the forest,
how it didn’t resemble any of its surroundings,
only glowed, stronger than I’d thought possible,
how it felt to stand ready on the rock,
how deep the water looked, the dark green and gray
and how I’d have to throw myself in all at once,
into the shock of engulfing, the tides, the pull beneath the rocks,
the cold and the moss and the stones and the smaller stones,
and the little slither of fish against my skin.

In the unraveling, the slow dissolution, I remember
how it felt to stand on that rock, my body frail, white, cold,
the weariness of the journey, the many levels of water,
the firm foundation of the rocks, loving that foundation,
my clothing on the damp moss in a pile, gray, smelling rank,
smelling of the journey, the sorry, sweaty little pile,
and the ferns and the moss and the music of the water,
the movement over the stones, under the stones,
around in the glasslike eddies, the glasslike
skin of the water, the rippling charge of it.
There was no one around, there was me and the water,
my body would meet that water above and below the water,
and I knew the way it would taste on my skin.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro


RYNN WILLIAMS lives in Manhattan. Her poems have appeared in The Nation, Field, North American Review, and Prairie Schooner, among others. She has been awarded a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a scholarship from Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Dorland Mountain Arts Colony.