In honor of National Poetry month, we begin our Poetry Week today, featuring work by a new writer each day.
by Shannon Lise
Through frosted baby trees
behind the house
brook slices banked snow
like iced wedding cake.
On the terrace
pair of wrought-iron chairs –
made for this weather and
well-schooled in patience –
wait for the melting in
No hurry. Lingering
cold calls for stacked stovewood
fragrant steam from a candlelit
in the attic bedroom.
They live in pictures – the brook
and the bedroom where we have never
been – just real estate listings
inviting the knitting of artificial memories.
One night when the desert returns –
lays waste my apartment
opening closets that need to stay shut –
you catch me in your words
draw me from the edge
screen-filtered voice closes my eyes
brings me home to a country chalet
stories of long snowy walks
tea on the stove
sock feet on the stairs and the smell of sweet orange
puts me to bed
puts the bottles away.
is what you always say
when you can’t make it, can’t explain
where you’ve been, sleep smeared
in tiled floors, fluorescent lights locked
behind bathroom doors proved pointless
when everything worth keeping out
is underneath your eyes, out of reach
even of the acrobatics of your
Come down late to the soft breakfast room,
step lightly through white noise, sprinkled knots
of glowing talk gathered round clean skirts of hotel
tables, the hiss of steaming espresso.
Try to look nice and normal, knowing
there will never be enough makeup.
Sometimes the whole muddle
of your miscalculated life comes to a point
like pencil lead sharpened to stab
and you seem to yourself merely a malaprop,
the only thing out of place.
You don’t want your tea but you must pretend
and it’s better having something to anchor your hands.
Take it outside, away from good mornings–
find yourself wondering if anyone will follow.
Sometimes the vacuum inside
spasms, like the intestinal walls of a
starving man. All at once you understand
how the taste of clean air
born in white rain and flecked with fresh light
will only ever come
from somewhere outside.
Notice the way he holds his coffee, when he comes.
How he knows when to put it down
lift your hands.
It starts with a place.
You come there, bent on making the best of it
but telling yourself and the strange sky
and all the unlistening people
that this is not your story
that you’ve come from and are going
somewhere else, that this is alright of course,
but it will never change the cell structure of your bones
or the song that’s been on repeat in your head –
it will never make you cry.
There are, perhaps, no words
for the moment when you lose your somewhere else,
grasp at fibers unraveling, kaleidoscope of mismatch colors
twirling senselessly in deep space.
What happens when you cut a story off?
When you amputate it, try to graft it onto something new,
branches still bleeding, sorrowful unto death?
How much blood is too much blood?
There is perhaps, no story under heaven
that went where we expected it to
I was not going to stay long.
Not long enough for dry nights to hover
in the roof of my mouth, for the unmountained sunrise
to become worth thirty minutes less sleep,
for the flowering of strange muscle patterns
and new reflexes, for the disposable pocket-sized guidebook
to transform under desperate fingers grown earnest
into blueprints for the kingdom, already under way,
not somewhere else but in these
parking lots, these silences
these dry bones.
You piece things together –
the aftertaste of fear and trembling,
the sound of rainy street lights leaping off a frisbee
and the way that God seems older than before.
The smell of new churches,
the way your best friend leaves you
and the savage grace that comes to haunt your footprints
even in Mars-red cracks of a dried lake.
Maybe that is how you come to know –
there is no passing through.
What you’re looking for is here,
One day you will leave
and realize the stories you brought here
are still here. When you go to pick them up
to take away with you, they are heavier, they stick.
You have to tear them, leave some of the skin behind.
It will not, perhaps, matter.
One day you wake up, like Ulysses,
feel the ocean rolling underneath the deck
and know, as if the seagulls screamed it in the night,
that there is no one waiting on the other side.
There are only the people you bring with you
for as far as they choose to come.
and look at what you have not made
and it is good.
About the artist: Kathy Sirico is a San Francisco-based visual artist working at the intersection of textiles, sculpture, painting, collage, and installation. Sirico holds an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and a Bachelor of Science from Skidmore College. She was a 2018 Artist-in-Residence at the Vermont Studio Center, a 2017 Artist-In-Residence at the Lucid Art Foundation, and a 2016 Artist-In-Residence at Recology. Her work has been exhibited throughout California, New York, and Chicago. To learn more visit her website, www.kathysirico.com. Image: Detail, 2019, mixed media and acrylic on canvas.