Shark Bait

January 18, 2020

(written from a watercolour by Michele Webber)

Hoisted high, I gape
mouth open, skywards.
My teeth flash white
instilling fear
in unprepared passers-by.
I could dive off
the fishmonger’s frontage
take a satisfying bite.
It is a sad end
to my glory days in the deep
but at least I am remembered
amongst the shrimp and bait.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad

Looking Glass

January 18, 2020

I want to be the woman
who pokes her fingers
through a canine
skull in the woods
and can divine
what killed it,

how long
it was panting blood
before its heart pulped,
how acute the teeth
that skinned it.
I want to be

the lady who presses herbs
on open wounds, knows
which tree to lick
as antiseptic.

I want to come
clean,

not this tuft of fur greying,
picking bourbon mid-shelf
not because of cost,

but for a hue that
holds a hint of rabid.

Megan Merchant

done battle

January 18, 2020

I have been married, divorced, faithful and unfaithful. I have battled with depression and enjoyed moments of bliss. I have had an abortion, I have been raped and I have stripteased. I have loved myself and loathed myself. Throughout my life, my exterior and interior have done battle – not just on account of being born one nationality and living quite another…

Ulrika Jonsson
Honest

When she does not find love, she may find poetry. Because she does not act, she observes, she feels, she records; a colour, a smile awakens profound echoes within her; her destiny is outside her, scattered in cities already built, on the faces of men already marked by life, she makes contact, she relishes with passion and yet in a manner more detached, more free, than that of a young man. Being poorly integrated in the universe of humanity and hardly able to adapt herself therein, she, like the child, is able to see it objectively; instead of being interested solely in her grasp on things, she looks for their significance; she catches their special outlines, their unexpected metamorphoses. She rarely feels a bold creativeness, and usually she lacks the technique of self-expression; but in her conversation, her letters, her literary essays, her sketches, she manifests an original sensitivity. The young girl throws herself into things with ardour, because she is not yet deprived of her transcendence; and the fact that she accomplishes nothing, that she is nothing, will make her impulses only the more passionate. Empty and unlimited, she seeks from within her nothingness to attain All.

Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex

poems are bodies

January 18, 2020

I do think there are poems that work better out loud than on the page. Spoken word poems can be exhilarating in performance and one-dimensional on the page. Likewise, there are poems that rely on the authority of the type itself, and the physical relationship between the words, the white space on the page, and the reader. I often tell my students that poems are bodies; we visually take them in and feel them in our guts even before we read the words. William Carlos Williams’ “Red Wheelbarrow” is pretty unglorious out loud. I’ve heard a recording of Williams reading it. His voice sounds like the Sherriff on Deputy Dawg, and he reads the poem without emphasis or opinion; it’s over before you know it. Now, on the page, that poem is endlessly compelling. Near-rhymes, stanzas that are visually constructed to look like wheelbarrows, the splitting of compound words into their constituent parts: wheel from barrow, rain from water. I think as my work has matured it may have become less entertaining at a poetry reading and more interesting on the page. As I have aged I have also become shy.

Diane Seuss
Interview in The Smoking Poet (Winter 2009/2010 issue)

They turned her around, and the heat of the fire was against her back. A hand seized one of her breasts, a mouth fastened on the tip of the other. But suddenly she lost her balance and fell backward (supported by whose arms?), while they opened her legs and gently spread her lips. Hair grazed the insides of her thighs. She heard them saying that they would have to make her kneel down. This they did. She was extremely uncomfortable in this position, especially because they forbade her to bring her knees together and because her arms pinioned behind her forced her to lean forward. Then they let her rock back a bit, as nuns are wont to do.

“You’ve never tied her up?”

“No, never.”

“And never whipped her?”

“No, never whipped her either. But as a matter of fact…”

It was her lover speaking.

“As a matter of fact,” the other voice went on, “if you do tie her up from time to time, or whip her just a little, and she begins to like it, that’s no good either. You have to get past the pleasure stage, until you reach the stage of tears.”

Then they made O get up and were on the verge of untying her, probably in order to attach her to some pole or wall, when someone protested that he wanted to take her first, right there on the spot. So they made her kneel down again, this time with her bust on an ottoman, her hands still tied behind her, with her hips higher than her torso. Then one of the men, holding her with both his hands on her hips, plunged into her belly. He yielded to a second. The third wanted to force his way into the narrower passage and, driving hard, made her scream. When he let her go, sobbing and befouled by tears beneath her blindfold, she slipped to the floor, only to feel someone’s knees against her face, and she realized that her mouth was not to be spared. Finally they let her go, a captive clothed in tawdry finery, lying on her back in front of the fire. She could hear glasses being filled and the sound of the men drinking, and the scraping of chair. They put some more wood on the fire. All of a sudden they removed her blindfold. The large room, the walls of which were lined with bookcases, was dimly lit by a single wall lamp and by the light of the fire, which was beginning to burn more brightly. Two of the men were standing and smoking. Another was seated, a riding crop on his knees, and the one leaning over her fondling her breast was her lover. All four of them had taken her, and she had not been able to distinguish him from the others.

They explained to her that this was how it would always be, as long as she was in the château, that she would see the faces of those who violated or tormented her, but never at night, and she would never know which ones had been responsible for the worst. The same would be true when she was whipped, except that they wanted her to see herself being whipped, and so this once she would not be blindfolded. They, on the other hand, would don their masks, and she would no longer be able to tell them apart.

Pauline Réage
The Story of O

Antilamentation

January 18, 2020

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve travelled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken axe. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it.
Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

Dorianne Laux
The Book of Men