By Kory Wells
Consider the plastic specimen cup—the kind you pee in at the doctor’s—boxed with other mementos of a previous life: a sheathed hunting knife, a merit badge sash, newspaper clippings of Little League and high school championships. Hold the vessel at eye level and wonder at the object inside, its size and shape not unlike a stone, a marble. Lift the top; empty the contents into your hand. Consider the metal, the heft. Consider mass times acceleration, jagged path into a young man’s abdomen. Youngest child. Brother. Consider how a plastic cup seems unworthy, yet can’t you see the surgeon desperate to offer something, anything to the family who waited and waited in green vinyl chairs? Make a fist around the bullet. How quickly it feels like a body not unlike your own—warm, and capable of anything.
Consider morning in Budapest, the wide St. Stephen’s Square gleaming, at its east end, the shining Basilica—massive marble and verdigris, bells calling tourists and locals, believers and skeptics alike. Blinded by the sun, we find ease in the great cathedral’s shadow. Inside, we blink into darkness and hush, then crane our necks, staggered by mosaics and frescoes, aquamarine and gold-leaf, a glorious ceiling sunlit by windows hidden high in the dome. Then we realize: despite all this beauty, most people are waiting in line at one side of the sanctuary. We find a brochure, find the English, consider what we are missing: a glass case, tabletop-sized, built to look like a gothic church. Inside it, the Holy Right, the miraculously mummified hand of St. Stephen himself. And get this: insert a coin in a slot beside the little glass church, and a light shines on the bejeweled, gloved hand. Economical travelers, we peer over the shoulder of a woman who pays. I half expect bells and whistles or music, like an arcade game or a jukebox. We are not Catholic, not Hungarian—what do we know of veneration? This was not the highlight of our trip, but here I am now, remembering that fist, how it clutches for eternity something unseen.
“For me, the diptych is magic, conjuring connections I might never otherwise discover as I examine my obsessions, including travel, the body, and my attachment to possessions. As a poet relatively new to CNF, I’m so grateful to BER for this recognition of my writing, and to my poet-sister-mentors who encouraged me to this form.”
Kory Wells is the author of two poetry collections, most recently Sugar Fix from Terrapin Books. Her writing has been featured on The Slowdown from American Public Media and in many publications. A former poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, she nurtures creative community through arts initiatives, storytelling, and the from-home mentorship program MTSU Write.