They say you couldn’t stop
singing. All night, the needle fed
you: stripped of most of your skin,
and the room around you white with metal
refractions of light.
All night, someone stayed by the edge
of your bed, held the needle
in your ankle—the only place
fire hadn’t claimed—held you
while you kicked and sang.
After he was burned, my father
begged for more: he wanted the quiet
explosion in his blood—morphine, Demerol—
he wanted numbness to drag his veins
of memory, the skeletal trees,
his hands before him clutching
a can of gasoline. In mind’s dark,
he could bend to earth, coax
the dry snap of a flame. He could steady
his hands in time to stop
the can’s woozy cough, the slow stain
spreading down his shirt. He could imagine
it otherwise: the fire now far behind
him. But always behind him,
a man goes down, goes down
kicking among the burning trees.
And night tightened its hold. And night
slipped its hands around my neck
and I did not cry out. Each planet burned
its name into the mirror of my eye,
flushing my skull with light: isn’t this the way
I was born, the wide dark trembling, a swell
of blood pounding across distance,
forcing inlets between constellations of bone?
They say I was tied like a calf,
legs knotted for stumble. They say
I was a strange, mute animal.
Wild planets traced their circles
in my blood—my father beside me
trembling, my father steadying
his hands—the scissors
when he cut the cord.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 3.
See all items about Susannah Nevison