February 2000

Amanda Schaffer


Amanda Schaffer Amanda Schaffer 's work has appeared in magazines including Seneca Review, The Cream City Review, Barrow Street, Oxford Poetry and The Journal of the American Medical Association. She lives in New York City.

How Experiments End   

I agreed to live in darkness once—
in a basement where my eyes 
widened, then tried to enter 

the window I swore I saw floating: 
in the center, where the brain makes the mind 
and tries to make it larger, 

the portal where relatives 
are whispering and playing cards. 
My family spent years this way 

in Denmark, saving for a ship gnawed by salt. 
The ship is dark. The sea, dark. 
The eyes at sea manufacture things: 

cities with taxi lights and potato flowers, 
termites gnawing wood in Moscow and New York. 
Once, I saw a patient with bandaged eyes 

leap screaming from bed 
as though tormented by rats. 
Somehow he made it down the narrow hall, 

down the stairs. It had been a beautiful day 
in America, and my relatives had missed it, 
but they raised their hands 

religiously to the last light 
as though examining their fingernails. 
My aunt Marcia says her older sister, 

her favorite sister, died at sea. 
Lonnie, who's listening from the other room, 
says, Sister? What sister? and they argue. 

As for me, I was born in America. 
I've invented everything I know. 




Amanda Schaffer: Poetry
Copyright � 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 10The Cortland Review