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By Carolyn Kizer

In the laboratory waiting room

containing

one television actor with a teary face

trying a contact lens;

two muscular victims of industrial accidents;   

several vain women—I was one of them—   

came Deborah, four, to pick up her glass eye.


It was a long day:

Deborah waiting for the blood vessels

painted

on her iris to dry.

Her mother said that, holding Deborah

when she was born,

“First I inspected her, from toes to navel,

then stopped at her head …”

We wondered why

the inspection hadn’t gone the other way.   

“Looking into her eye

was like looking into a volcano:


“Her vacant pupil

went whirling down, down to the foundation   

of the world …

When she was three months old they took it out.   

She giggled when she went under

the anaesthetic.

Forty-five minutes later she came back

happy! …

The gas wore off, she found the hole in her face

(you know, it never bled?),

stayed happy, even when I went to pieces.   

She’s five, in June.


“Deborah, you get right down

from there, or I’ll have to slap!”

Laughing, Deborah climbed into the lap

of one vain lady, who

had been discontented with her own beauty.   

Now she held on to Deborah, looked her steadily   

in the empty eye.


Carolyn Kizer, “Through a Glass Eye, Lightly” from Cool, Calm, and Collected: Poems 1960-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Carolyn Kizer. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Cool Calm and Collected: Poems 1960-2000 (Copper Canyon Press, 2001)

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Poet Bio

Carolyn Kizer
Carolyn Kizer has had a remarkably full and varied life in literature. Born in Spokane, she studied poetry with Theodore Roethke at the University of Washington, founded the literary journal Poetry Northwest, and was the first director of the Literature Program for the National Endowment of the Arts; she taught at numerous institutions, and in 1985 won the Pulitzer Prize for her volume Yin: New Poems. Her warm, accessible, and humorous poems offer shrewd insights into human motivations and behavior.

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