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-
Shanked on the Red Bed
The perch was on the roof, and the puck was in the air. The diffident were driving, and the daunted didn't care. When I came out to search for you the lauded hit the breeze On detonated packages the bard had built to please. The century was breaking and the blame was on default, The smallest mammal redolent of what was in the vault, The screeches shrill, the ink-lines full of interbred regret— When I walked out to look for you the toad had left his net. The discourse flamed, the jurors sang, the lapdog strained its leash— When I went forth to have you found the tenured took the beach With dolloped hair and jangled nerves, without a jacking clue, While all around the clacking sound of polished woodblocks blew. When I went out to look for you the reductions had begun. A demento took a shopgirl to a raisin dance for fun, And for you, for me, for our quests ridiculous and chaste The lead sky leered in every cloud its consummate distaste. The mayors queued for mug shots while the banner rolled in wind That beat at bolted windows and bore down upon the thin, And everywhere warped deliverers got bellicose and brave, When I walked out to find you in the reconstructed rave. The envelopes were in the slots and paperweights were flung. When I came down to seek you out the torrents had begun To rip the pan from handle and horizons from their shore, To rip around your heady heart looking there for more.