The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. X no. Z


Jeanne Marie Beaumont

Blood Lines

Within my capacious upper arm, a cooper bangs

staves of a barrel. He can bend, the story goes,

bands of iron barehanded. That now-and-then pin-

prick in my lower gut’s from a tailoring couple who

stitched themselves up in thick coats, vanished to


Credit the cornice maker for my steely posture,

my uncanny balance with shut eyes. Able hands.

Shoemakers, buttonmakers, mechanics, pipefitters,

and clerks. A cashier rings up my fingers as register

bells pulse my wrists. When flu-epidemic ghosts


through my heart, my book-keepers enumerate

each one. I’ve locked the piano tuner up in my ear.

But a salesman possesses my mouth and pressures

my smiles, I freely confess — for stenographers abound

to take it all down. As for the veterans who march


my feet, the brash one spurs my heel, the gassed one

maddens my sole. One paper bag maker stays home

in my lungs and conspires with seamer of chamois,

with knitter of caps. Don’t be so timid, these timid say.

Who never marry. Who live to bury. And after my


goes out with the team driver, it transfers via streetcar

conductor and tall chauffeur. But the largest cadre by far

are the mill hands who toil midst the heat of my brain:

carders, weavers, dryers, finishers, and the fixer of looms—

bless that fixer — and the multitudes I lose in the

gloaming . . .

How dim it grows now in those uppermost stories.