IT’S NO PICNIC WHEN THE WORDS ONE SPEAKS ARE IMPELLED
by a hail of white fury
and to know that the psychic bruise, the terrible corsage of pain another wears is of your making. It’s nightmare-tune echoes in the quiet of your roped red offering long after.
You sing to her of your mind’s weather, its inevitable upending: the crack of collision. Atomic. Elemental. Invoke the weight of your vacillations, the ether of particles swelling hot desire’s flash, then hammer the arc of flight and bring her swan-blur down. What she wants are your belongings
gone and the stars
to inveigh against the damage, nights to cleave the moon leaving her both halves; the hours to pre-date pain, eat the evaporate from the sea of her weeping. You’re the immanent impending, she says: the impenetrable heaviness that tendrils her hair, aspirate that capsizes
her tiny island.
So often you said your sorries,ignoredthe fiction she called her life and hoped you could talk her back to life, dripping seaweed and plankton. Your sorries were a lie, your heartbreak-grin wide as your gait. Gate affixed to no shelter. Your shelter an abyss. Is it your fault, you deadpan
when all you’ve known is the fiery recesses of the tongue?
Your father was a comet, mother implosive, your birthright the stars; and like Pandora you were curious. Your curiosity released the solar winds and burned them both alive. Now
chasing the sun, and in memoriam you live as the world’s suffering: its curbside crucifix laced with waves of wonder, target of cigarette butts and jokes that fall flat. You consider your options: lie abed all day bandaging your yesterdays or grab the manila rope attached to the stump of bruised neckerchief by which you might hang yourself. All’s scraps of desert, and the lies you told
intended as feel-goods, still shine
yellow through your teeth. It’s a cipher why you stayed the nights, listened to her shun the world, sneak away from it before the sun hit seeking amplification. The better to light the ego’s way back to you, whose sympathies she tore off, fistful after fistful like bloodied sheets. Didn’t she deserve a little bit
to be used?
before shooing you off with a wave of her bitch-hand, extort love and false sentiment, her fingers grasping and greedy?
when you go to yourself from the roll and stretch of a morning-mare, cupping your shadow pay for making her want, listen to how her prayers try to fill the void with the weight of want?
Time feeds on a woman’s face fist-first: eyes and mouth etched into the once-glowing surface as if she were meant to live by the treacly, salutary glow of a candle, curled in the lopsided lagoon of her body only later to claim it all a joke.
An orchestra plays the music of a dirge with fingers chewed to the bone. Sheet music blooming fragrant and the notes dispersed
by the wind of a door closing.
MANY THINGS ARE VANISHING
yet at the bottom of every cup you drain’s a human face asking you to love. You’ve walked your love off on this terrace lamp lit nights
by the sun, smoked your last cigarette ad infinitum, are hollow as whatever bird bone. You live by lamplight detected by no one. The portals through which you stare nights aren’t windows, but paintings of the stars: a billion billion rosaries strung with cat gut.
Wind cycles through the palms, draws a sassy bow across the ribbed leaves of Sassafras and Hickory. You avoid
the clink and glitter of the recycling truck hauling the body’s momentary measure away: blood baked underwear an ailing body shucked. The notes you sing
could blade the air; your features fuel the moon’s sodium vapor glare. Yet, your voice bleeds in the manner of every shadow’s speak, your tone deaf idleness, biblical. Sanguine’s what you thought you were, but your sweetness errs
on the side of militancy. All tears tear you away, in the way light darkens a thousand thousand days. Your broken down weeping wild to burn.
WHAT HAPPENS PRE-BIRTH’S NOT THE COW’S ROUGH TONGUE
the scratching beyond the window not a sow’s breath or tree blinking. What pre-dates the laying down of the brain’s circuitry so it can feed our last breath it’s darkest fable got its start millennia ago. Father, you’re dead and far away, but tonight your apparition’s in ascension: your parental ghost clear as a super moon in a wash of headlights. It wakes me from prolific night to apologize to my brain box and anthropomorphize my now
Its coordinates are lacking, reach an overreach and its exudations dampen my senses. What’s wrong with it leaks into me. I’m its secret
of dirt. Tonnage in pockets and purse. In the name of intimacy, you stole from me my body’s barrier against darkness. I knew the shattered vessel that leaked your lipless brimful. You insisted on owning the heat my body un-lipped, the faintest ripple that tickled razors and targeted the hum in the living breast.
I discovered the history of our pre-birth while examining the stars and their emoluments and by accident, events too, which pre-dated Moses’ attempts to climb back into his mother’s womb, scale her too-high Egyptian shoes. His mother, like yours
nothing of the thunder-roll of need caught in the hollow of his throat. What he grew in was never watered. You, my associate drumbeat, were a house full of burning people, I, the ongoing effort to extinguish:
drowning girl in the summer of floods; your brackish jewel, otherwise human. What choice did I have but to call for the nearest shadow and plead for rescue. Ask it to make a miracle of me, if not a hero, so I might escape your apiary: swollen and scrotum-shaped, swarming with killer bees. I ran but couldn’t outpace the blasphemy you’d made of me: wound affixed to no carcass. False grief shed tears
of salt at your funeral; arrived with spoons to shovel and get the affects of your long-term groaning off. I boxed and put you curbside to dampen, waited until certain you’d swirled away with the rains in a cloud of mildew: creature of air, your sojourn among the stars finally acheless.
Nothing will bring you back to skin again, or reconstitute the skeletal remains of pre-death.
Your infra-red wariness was finally globed in its own oblate sphere, like a luminous film of
bar soap. This memory’s unauthorized
boldly and cartwheels to forget which way the many ways of up go. It crests with cumulonimbi, wants to make music from light and sing its anthem. But music’s not laughter, happiness not love and history’s solely an inference composed of fog.
So why this haunting, these memories on the grimy side of love? Why do I repeatedly shuck my beginnings, attribute to fraud the bursts of words that exit my mouth like mushroom clouds? I live among landmines and balance on inflammable surfaces: a last minute exegesis, my features brusque slashes. My smile, an undisclosed parenthesis. My kitchen knives have radicalized and pianos make my mouth bleed. Father, I don’t lie
nights thinking of you and the many fathers I’d wished were you, have died. I fall asleep easily, my dreams illuminated by city lights. Which city I’m in’s always a puzzle. So many look-alikes in a million pieces and no piece fits.
Always, my car’s been hauled away, and I’m a bad knee acting up. We won’t get home tonight or maybe any night. Softer to treat my faulty heart, see it like a hand held over the top of a flashlight or lit candle. Make contact with people and belongings like sand on a rainy afternoon. Home’s a paradigm for loss and loss a parallel for fear, the airless planet which dares me
[from a collection by the same name now circulating]
EVENINGS AT THE TABLE OF AN INTOXICANT: FEVER DREAM, PART MEMORY, PART METAPHOR, PART EXTRAPOLATION
The days are toxic, the deities rabid. Memory short-lived and love won’t protect you. The world you summon has long been at your side. It hisses like a top, dismembers as it loops. Oceans rise, whales disembark. Air’s hostile. Skin’s fatal and the good life visits elsewhere. The ghost in scrubs, keeper of hemlock’s back from other peoples’ lives, the demise of the flesh, lament of its over-rhapsodizing cells trapped in the body’s blind interior; the sky, the reeds, the dark and anxious movements of their wildlife forsworn.
Once you had the stars crawling up your sleeves, the moon’s light caught in free-fall. Nights drew from concentrates of hyper-vigilance and fed these to the labyrinth of your flesh, adding increase wide and white to your child-mound of dread.
How nearly you slept, a little milk-engorged whelp in the frontier of its newly birthed body skin hot to the touch, cooling breezes redacted; body not back from its consortium with the sun, devoted emotional sidekick.
All’s underneath in the narcoleptic sleep of the fevered. It sifts and codes, sends the dreamer where roots crunch as if feet stampeding in snow, their upright pending. Flame there is amphibious, the soul at plumb-line and the cosmos forever the walled-in hair of the life-line. It cuts them off, unpins their light to do what with? Filch shine from infinity’s black coil while the stars rise with sticks to beat them off.
Oh excess, wind’s in the bacchanal, its cart runs away with me. I tip to the living halo. I’ve downed the drunken glow of moonlight in the shallows and am heightened, ignited nostalgic, dysfunctional: tricked again into pouring out, opening loaves with my imagination: the place without a name. Sand there’s the mother of fire and bears the weight of my footprints. My footprints are drops of dew: stain of the salty skeleton that wants to dance me away.
I sing to the ozone: my repertoire’s a repository for decomposing regrets, too heavy now for death to carry off as dowry. My songs have hubris. They speak what they don’t know. They don’t know how to love, make trash out of laughter; kick the earth’s four quadrants into orbit and mock your sunlit innocence.
This isn’t my heart’s hunger. My heart’s hunger resists, flies along the edges of my lips. It asks for no bread, wants no quarrel with the seasons, only to see the sun again, not climb it.
About the Author:
Susan Sonde is an award winning poet and short story writer. Her debut collection: In the Longboats with Others won the Capricorn Book Award and was published by New Rivers Press. The Arsonist, her fifth collection was released in 2019 from Main Street Rag. Her sixth collection, Evenings at the Table of an Intoxicant was a finalist in the New Rivers New Voices 2019 contest. The Last Insomniac, a chapbook, now working its way to a full collection, was a 2019 finalist in The James Tate Award. Grants and awards include, a National Endowment Award in poetry; grants in fiction and poetry from The Maryland State Arts Council; The Gordon Barber Memorial Award from The Poetry Society of America. Her collection The Chalk Line was a finalist in The National Poetry Series. Individual poems have appeared in Barrow Street, The North American Review, The Southern Humanities Review, The Mississippi Review, American Letters and Commentary, Bomb, New Letters, Southern Poetry Review, and many others.