Phoebe Reeves

Question One, Chapter Seven: As They Deprive Man

The body lost. Smooth body. Wine

and woman. Sadness in his body asked

 

If you must use violence, watch

the way. He choked her, saying

 

You shall die at my hands. She said

Let me go, and I will heal you.

 

Her hand restored to him touch. He had

lost his place—he was absent and

 

living in promises. He came back after his

understanding, torn away from the body,

 

understood words. A man who is awake

sees God’s memory. Memory is

 

man’s beast. When memory sees

the question of love and reason, he is

 

able to change. And he does, weeping.

The light appears different from what it was

 

before. Fire or water strip themselves

naked. People say all their lusts

 

can change. A girl was turned

into a woman and not her honesty.

 

She would not follow another man’s wife.

In its place: loss, loss, loss. Who sees loss—

 

the loss of senses, loss of thought?

Witches sometimes collect lost trees.

 

The repository of memory in bodies

is human, is necessary, is without any

 

other—can restore pain, can work human

acts. Can be infinitely more.

 

Chapter Nine: The Head Hurt the Body

Ask the bodies of those who are deluded—

are our bodies the world?

 

Bodies are moved by the stars and they enter

God, who created our bodies.

 

They draw out the memory of pain and

transformation. A spider

 

feels its web in every part of the body.

The work of the body

 

exists in the body, the body obsessed.

Can the works of nature

 

be known to us? This work must be given

the power in names,

 

true beyond the dead or the blind. To see,

enter the body—

 

sight restores light to the truth. Between

the first and last house,

 

the work of death knows.

Unable to rise

 

or to move, a woman in a fury considered

that they were not women.

 

He had struck the shapes of work, the shapes

of the air, women

 

in a painted image, women who were

hurt by God, hurt

 

although they were not setting snares for

each other. Their curiosity

 

was their crime. Their bodies

belong to the blows,

 

and the one who beat them. And the truth released

the witches. The witches

 

were the blows which they received. A wound

in a person represents

 

the person, even the innocent—to be hurt

with one’s consent

 

is to have thought and doubt. Bodies

belong to the blows.

 

They permitted the one who beat them

to remain unpunished.

 

 

Chapter Ten: Sometimes Men

Someone may doubt

whether they possess

any mortal grace,

since guilt can be understood

 

with the soul or

with the body. It is not possible

to possess the soul.

The soul is no body. A man

 

may inhabit

the sea without question.

Men in their own

bodies change into grace with

 

the power of words.

Even his hair-shirt and his whole

heart God learned

after many days. One life went too

 

far in the void

crying out, I can find no rest. 

He possessed

the crimes of experience. He sat

 

down at the table

and talked of his sorrow.

Under a tree, he had

once loved a marble virgin, made for

 

hidden liberation.

Day on day for forty days he touched

his own body, saying,

This refers to exterior things.

 

His hand, his life, his

body were a distortion. His body was

shut off from his

death and he was shaken with doubt.

 

The limits of the body will

occupy a man

and at times deprive him of reason.

The limits of the body

 

influence mercy. To preserve it,

the soul works

from the outside, dark

intellect. The soul is not

 

the body. Tormented without

intermission,

the sane wo/man doubts.

 

Chapter Eleven: The Kind Grave

No body will answer

the question of the elements.

Storms proved

 

men and their reason a clear

injury to history.

A woman invited the body

 

to tell the secret

discord of anger and said that suffering

had to find lodging

 

in the people until all the houses

burned down.

As for death, it alone causes the rain.

 

Gravity does not

seem possible for the man without

death. He suffers

 

no doubt. He does not suffer

the bodies of women.

Those women were in their own bodies,

 

eating and drinking,

condemned for thinking. A woman’s

words: I was angry.

 

I wished he would always, beyond my

asking, hope.

The woman burned and paid

 

the debt of all people.

One night she went out of the house.

The door struck her face

 

and she prepared for her burning. She said:

I will not survive

the crimes of which we cannot speak.


 

The Second Question: The Difficulty of Destroying

To remove is not to cure. Men seek

women,

by whom they are borne,

to look for a cure.

Even to seek a remedy is to sin,

for a man may suffer

when it seems good to him.

 

On earth,

all things human,

even the mind,

keep close.

A man ought rather to die

than consent to be cured,

contrary to the work of an injury.

 

Women discover a pail of milk,

the fire, a stick.

The women beat back the learned Doctor.

Because he is dead,

he is lost.

But he knows how to cure a marriage.

 

 

Even if the remedy is not honest,

without imposing it on another

person a clearer understanding will know love.

 

A girl sent her heart to the fire.

An old woman went to the girl,

but she turned her face away and died.

To know

is to be hurt.

That hurt is human.

The body is wrought by injury.

And in what light should women

reveal their own hands?

 

They are the poor who cry out in their pains.

They seek

their own house and they remove obstacles

without any injury to anyone.

 
When a woman met the ground,

thorns and bones asked

how many days had passed.

Words dissolved doubt

and proved a cure,

which later led into the house,

not through the main door,

but over the threshold of the kitchen.

The fire and the door disappear.

She is unable to enter

the house.

She is unable to leave.

 

 

Process note: These poems are part of a book-length project which erases the Malleus Maleficarum, or the “Hammer of the Witches,” a text that was used during the Inquisition to hunt and convict witches, written by Heinrich Kramer and James Springer. I have taken the 1928 Rev. Montague Summers translation as my source text, available at http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org. It is a deeply and disturbingly misogynistic text, including lines like “When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil.” I’m friends with another professor at my school who teaches European History and we often have conversations over lunch about how to deal with historical hate-texts like this one. Erasure seems like one way to deflate the negative power of the words, and imagine the voices of the women (and men) who were murdered based on the warped theology of the Malleus.
The rules of my erasures were that I could delete, but not rearrange or add, except for punctuation. Although at first, I began by deleting at the word-level, as the project progressed, I became much more aggressive about my deletion, and also found myself focusing on certain repetitions. For example, almost every time the word “heresy” appeared, it became “her,” in the poem. It was in this way that I began to uncover the woman these poems speak about. Titles are anagrams of the original section titles.

 

 

 

 

Phoebe-Reeves-Dream-Pop-PressPhoebe Reeves earned her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College, and now teaches English at the University of Cincinnati’s Clermont College in rural southern Ohio. Her chapbook The Lobes and Petals of the Inanimate was published by Pecan Grove Press in 2009.  Her poems have appeared in The Gettysburg ReviewHayden’s Ferry ReviewMemorious, Phoebe, and Radar Poetry.