The Manhattan Review
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The Manhattan Review
Established 1980
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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 history. 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 float 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 through 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 blood 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.