“and even you forgot those brilliant flashes seen from afar” -Ruth Stone

Little Fugue (State)

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Far have I wandered not knowing
the names of where,
long have I woven this dress
of human hair, here
I have pitched my tent, here and there,
not knowing my name,
or where, not even the color of my hair
nor why
it tangles so, nor where my comb goes,
nor where my brush,
how far I wandered through underbrush,
into onrush,
nor where my body was, nor what it called
itself, nor the nature
of my calling, nor what my scrawling meant,
not that scrawl then,
nor this scrawl here, nor what a self
could be,
nor what a bee could be, nor breath,
nor poetry,
this dog I’ve walked and walked
to death.

Blue-ish

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I bought a blue knife.
I couldn’t help
myself. It did not change
my life. It cut
the same as any other
knife, though blue,
which for a while felt new,
and I could define myself,
if I needed to,
as a person who chose
a blue knife, who lived
with a blue knife, who cut
quite a figure
with her blue knife,
though it was ordinary
in every way beyond its hue.
I have a drawerful
of knives like other knives,
and some of them cut surprisingly
well, straight through.
But know me not by my blood
but by my blue.
Have you seen, my intimate ally,
the light inside an ambulance?
It is not dim as you might think.
No pink or yellow tint. It is bright
white, like a wedding cake.
Everything is exposed. Your head rolling
back and forth on the padded cot.
The spinning light on top
of the ambulance is blue,
or the color of a rose.
Inside, Diane, you suffer,
and your suffering is exposed.

Untitled

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I can’t title anymore.
It’s like naming a baby “baby.”
Or sticking a toe tag on a dead body
and labeling it “dead body,” or “Random John.”
There are a multitude
of Random Jesuses beyond That Jesus.
There was a Jesus who won
a party boat on The Price Is Right.
He was a small man with stringy muscles,
but he picked up the male model
and hoisted him into the party boat.
Some natural order had been upended
and everyone, even the host, knew it.
There was a guy on the same show
with “Genghis” on his name tag.
He roared when he won a car
he could never have fit inside.
His vast body was lit up with joy.
There was something one-dimensional
about him. One-dimensional and wide,
like a symbol or a god.
If you name a woman “Teeny,”
will the body obey the name or rebel against it?
I knew a woman named Teeny who stole
silverware by hiding it in her pantyhose.
She was teeny but heavy as lead.

Small Refrain

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More and more I am surrounded
by it. The mind
and face of it.
The school and cult of it.
I once found it mysterious.
What’s in the casket, you know.
What’s in grandma’s
basket.

In my skull I’d narrate
their heartache trapped inside
the box. Open your
mouth, here’s some cream,
you know? And when I slept,
they populated, like wasps do
underpants on the line,
my dreams.

Its exoticized velvets aren’t exotic.
Its silks aren’t silk. The skull stains
the rayon pillow. That’s as far
as it goes. Someone
is not knocking to get out.
Only melting into the woodwork,
you know.

At this late date I yearn
for its opposite. Honey-streaming
combs. Greenery. Some sort
of flowering vine climbing a small
dead chair. My god
I’m homesick for life, the warm
snout of it, you know.

Appears in this issue
Diane Seuss is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent collection is frank: sonnets (Graywolf Press, 2021).

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