Purse be full again, or else must I die. This is the wish the trees in hell’s seventh circle lacked, bark ripped by monstrous dogs, bleeding from each wound. We see them languid there, the lightened purse a demon drug. Less, less. At the canal, the dog loops trees in a figure eight — a cacophony of insects under sun. A man against a tree nods off. Let there be no sandwich for the empty purse. Let there be no raiment for someone skint. Let blood run out, let the currency remove. Let that which troubles trouble not. My father in the driveway. Legs splayed behind him. Pail beside him. Sorting handfuls of gravel by shade and size. One way to calm a pecker, compensate for stash. Dad! I lied. The man shifts by the tree and now grace is upon him. The slant of sun picks up the coins dropped by travelers and — lo! — grace enables him to see. The demon dog fresh off an eight barks, too, standing, struck by the man, by the coins, barks at their glare; the man reaches in scrim at the glint in the light and thinks Another malt. The flesh is willing, the spirit spent, the cloud passes over — relief is not what you think, not the light. Regard the barking dog now tugging at the dead man’s leg becoming bark. You be my life, you be my heart’s guide, you be the provision providing more, you be the blood — stanch the sore! — you be failing proportion (mete) . . . Steward of gravel squints up at the girl who is me. What? defensively. Out of the east woods, a foaming raccoon spills. Palmolive executive? Palmolive customer? Palm’s stony olives on the embankment of limestone or soapstone or shale. Leg of the man clamped in the dog’s mouth. Mouth of the man open and unmoved. Voice of the man: Three dolls sat within a wood, and stared, and wet when it rained into their kewpie mouths. They were mine to remonstrate to the trees at large, the catalpas and the fir, the sugar maples in the glade turning gold. To each is given, one doll began, so I had to turn her off. Consider how it was for me — Flash of the arrow and the foam falls down. Three balletists ignoring pliés bound onto the long lawn and its canalward slope. I am underwater and they haze in the light, mouth but do not sound. In the arrow’s blink they start. Decimal as piercing of the line — Table as imposition of the grid — Sum as heuristic apoplex — Columns in honeysuckle cents — or not. Just this transpired. Against a tree I swooned and fell, and water seeped into my shoe, and a dream began to grow in me. Or despair, and so I chose the dream. And while I slept, I was being fed, and clothed, addressed — as though awake with every faculty, and so it went. Then: blaze, blare of sun after years uncounted, and synesthesia of it and sound, the junco’s chirp and then the jay’s torn caw, arc of trucks on the distant interstate, your what the fuck and then her call. Beside me, pinned to a green leaf, in plastic and neat hand, a full account. I had indeed still lived, and been woke for more. So, weeping then, I rose.
Susan Wheeler - 1955-
The moon rose like a blooming flower. The tin in the hand clattered its charge. We walked by in the wavering hour, I looking away, you chattering hard. Met by luck, with like destinations, We startled again at what ended in pique. Strollers out, seeing us, had no notion; A car alarm cycled its querulous shriek; Eighth Street sank in the crack of its nightfall; You pressed your satisfactions on me. You in your urgency remarked after all Kindling your passion was enmity; Passion had finally erased your calm, Made composure a prop of the past. I mugged that street noise, din, bedlam, Prevented my hearing your story at last. As I walked home the strollers were thinning, The moon bobbed above roofs like a ball, The shade at the bus stop waved to me, beckoning, And I nodded fast in the fast nightfall.