SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

A Very Large Head by Sarah Law

In the summer of 1844, novelist George Eliot went to London to have her head “cast” by the eminent phrenologist James Deville.

 

Twenty-two-and-a-quarter inches round:

a very large head. See the lift

of the jaw as it draws a line

 

from the white throat’s side.

This lady, average-height, is gifted

with moral weight. Here, the bold

 

curves at the cranial base

sweep elegantly to the crown.

My dear, excuse me. Raising her locks,

 

the temple is—ah—luminous and smooth.

A broad pause in the circuitry

where her wordflow is suspended;

 

each side a mold for the pad of my thumbs

to rest. What pleasant symmetry;

such dimples are fashioned to be touched.

 

Here, though, are resistant ridges,

imaginative nodes we might cite

as a novel development. Forgive me

 

if I ask: is she lonely? Does she cycle

between moodiness and joy?

There is a plain along the brow

 

where her spirit has retrenched.

We could call it a reversal; faith

translated back into empathy.

 

I thank you, Madam Evans. I will

present more work to the society

next month. Until then

 

I shall remember the heft

and swell of your skull,

the worlds within it, which

 

I am honored to glimpse,

by dint of my hands upon you—

the passionate snap of your book.


Sarah Law lives in London, UK, and is a tutor for the Open University and elsewhere. Her latest collection, Ink’s Wish (Gatehouse 2014), explores the life of medieval visionary Margery Kempe. She has had recent work in Ink, Sweat & Tears; Psaltery & Lyre; Poetry Breakfast; Allegro; Eunoia Review, and (forthcoming) Saint Katherine Review and Amaryllis. She edits the online journal Amethyst Review.

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