Sixteen Rivers Press (2009)
Winner of the 2007 Sixteen Rivers Press Competition
“What is instantly remarkable in Again is the exquisite clarity of its imagery and its profound, fervid tone. Her voice is sensuous, attentive, intelligent, and ruthlessly honest as she interrogates the tangled relationship between what is said or kept secret, loved or feared, lit or kept in shadows.” —Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Listen to the Section Three, a single poem in fourteen parts, read in its entirety by the author (note that it may take a few moments to download):
THE OBSESSIVE GAZE (11:18)
While we slept, such heavy rain swept past
it shook the last roses loose. They lay
smashed on the deck this morning, their petals
scattered like big white tears. I shouldn’t say
a thing so sentimental. But there they were.
And you, my father, so long dead, why
should I not expect you to be everywhere,
reminding me how little will be left—
vague ache in my own daughter’s heart
as she sweeps the steps after rain whose mercy
is all in the coming, the coming again.
Her sister sang the song of the beast,
all breathy and pull-up-the-covers,
and then she slept, little puffs of dream
from across the room, while the beast lay
in the dust under her own bed, hissed
he would get her, ankle by ankle grab hold
then pull her down to eat her, skin and bone.
There was no safe hiding place. Her mother
warned never to hold the pillow over her face
or she’d turn blue. Blue like the baby
her mother had not brought home the afternoon
her sister had sworn, It’s inside her suitcase.
The suitcase kept still while her mother
held them too hard, then went to her room.
Her sister went to the suitcase, opened it.
Silkiness, bunched up like a wrong answer.
That night her sister whispered the beast
would follow them everywhere, even if
they moved to Arabia and wore veils
and perfumes, the beast would be able
to tell who they were. He had eaten
their brother, had a taste for their blood.
The only thing that would save them was song.
It’s a really really long song, her sister said.
But it’s the only thing. It starts out, ‘Star light.’
She leaned at the dark and sang again: ‘Star light.’
She leaned more, listening. You just have to
make it up as you go. If he likes it, you’re free.
Knightgown, they called me, and how I wished
a nightgown would descend on me whenever
I stood before them, to hide my fat girl body
from their mocking eyes and tongues.
You may be the smartest girl in the class,
but you’re also the fattest! All these years later,
I can still name the one who shouted that,
remember looking down at the rough dirt
playground, strewn with maple seeds,
then back up to the old brick building where,
the day before, I’d been made to go recite
the Gettysburg Address, lean speech
the fat fourth-grade phenomenon reeled off
to every class, blood rising high in high
school boys’ faces as they laughed behind
their hands. Now we are engaged . . .
I grew to hate my arms and legs, the way
my stomach sat like something extra
in my lap. My whole body seemed extra,
an outer fleshy suit sealed tight to the one
I knew was truly mine, the long slim lithe one
like my sister’s, like those of girls in books I read,
or almost all the other girls who lived, but when
I climbed trees to dream of it, the branches
threatened to give way, and I trembled,
clutching the firm, fat trunk, my twin.
Being slow at books would be far worse,
but how much worse I seemed to know
less and less. Then, thirteen, I fasted
during Lent. My clothes began to drift past
the extra body I was killing off, uneaten
sweet by sweet. I loved denying her. I loved
the strange sensation of walking light
into a room. Most of all, I loved the end
of taunts. Then one night in the mirror I saw
the fat one pouring back inside the shadows
of my thinness. She looked so lost.
Still, I turned away. But she never left me.
Not even the cries of lovers alter her. Night
after night, she lies in my arms, wanting.