The earth once felt like this:
a dinner plate encompassed by sea
with a dome of heaven overhead,
a place where you might reach
the rim and stick your arm through
firmament or fall into a great abyss.
Overnight I'd become a spider
mite, a red dot traversing the plains
of Sunday's spread-out Times,
inching past letters, familiar serifs,
arriving at the rough-cut edge, out
past the table's underpinning.
There was nothing holding me
up anymore, or so it seemed then.
(I know my logic's flawed.)
How far can a spider mite drop
before it runs out of silk? Would
eight flailing legs break my fall?
I don't know what I expected—
a sounding bell or a door opening—
but when I woke in the night
and craned my neck to see the time,
I knew at once I was older now
than my father had ever been.
My younger sister telephones to ask
how old she looks. I'm honest: Forty-five.
Fuck you! she says. I try to understand
why she's so sensitive about her age,
so vain about the face she hasn't seen
in twenty years, but I'm the lucky one,
still stuck in her blind eyes at twenty-nine,
the age she claims to be. Can’t she accept
that she is growing older? Or does it feel
like being trapped in rooms with one-way glass?
The whole world passes by, observing her,
while she makes do with blurred reflections
in a teaspoon of the past. But when I ask,
she tells me it’s not that at all, it’s just
a strategy for thinking she has time—
the way I’d set the clock back when I
studied late at night, keeping sleep at bay.
Jane McKinley is a Baroque oboist and artistic director of the Dryden Ensemble. Her work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Five Points, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. Vanitaswon the 2011 Walt McDonald First-Book Prize. In 2023, she received a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.