the print you skim
or just scroll past
before you sign is so fine
you might think it's just
the skin of my face, or
the slick surface of my eye,
the shifting lie of its hue—
a shady hazel shifting
as the light shifts,
some sentient color
that supposes it knows
what you'd best
like to see.
For a holed-up year I wore my glasses
on a chain because I didn’t need to see
across distances, or rather the distances
became so vast, clear vision was beside the point.
Nothing new to see here in this blur of house
I wore like an exoskeleton while screening
an approximate, beamed-in world.
In the brief post-vax pre-Delta window
I visited the optometrist—his face so close to mine—
weird, sudden proximity-passing-for-intimacy,
no acclimatizing phase, no exposure therapy—
only his naked stare, and how I had to
stare back as he plodded me through my choices,
this-or-this-ing me towards “corrected” vision.
I got the new glasses I supposed I’d need
to move back into the world, called “progressives,”
a lens that promised to fuse multiple visions
into an invisible menu of options, lineless, fluid,
rising from close to middle to the far distance.
Finally wearing them, I practiced aiming
my nose, turning my whole head to fully face
what I wanted to see, but even then,
I also had to tilt my head up, down,
slide my eyeballs—newly, vividly aware
of those wet orbs revolving in their sockets—
aware, too, of my neck and head—
of swivel and tilt—and as I put my body
through these motions, I thought I finally understood
what my dad had been doing, his odd head movements
as he sat in his recliner, still alive, hardcover novel
open on his lap. I imagined he was, as I was now,
trying to find the correct angle, moving
the newly strange parts of his own body,
making trial and error adjustments so that he might
lift the words from the page into focus.
But this vision, too, may well be off, a distance
still far, too far, no matter where I point my nose,
all I’ll never see.
Liz Ahl (she/her) lives in New Hampshire. She is the author of several chapbooks and one full-length poetry collection, Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017). Her poems have appeared recently in One Art, Lavender Review, and Limp Wrist, and are forthcoming at West Trestle Review and Quartet.