I met the poet Susan Noel in the last year of her life. During that brief time, she lightened the sense of aloneness I have felt for all of mine. She loved "Ode to a Nightingale" by Keats, and we both knew what he meant when he wrote of Ruth standing in tears amid the "alien corn." We both felt that homesickness. I wrote this poem shortly after her death. While she was alive I felt a certain permission to be. I knew her vulnerability meant a beautiful thing could survive. Her existence was a constant act of exposure, like the leaf of a lined jacket folded down. Her visibility gave me courage, and caused me to understand the importance of my visibility. I might miss her for the rest of my life, but at least someone will know from my persistent light that it is safe to be here.
thorn fruit moon
It has to come out this way. Now that these spirits were free, the task was to dissuade them from destruction. They would like to burn down a house. But what is lust? A palatable dream filled with the rumblings of a boom that is yet to lower. If you remind me of my beauty I will kill you. So these sheltering hands are made of violence. All his good deeds were anonymous, on backroads witnessed by turtles. Try to penetrate the masonry with this slim joke. I’m looking for something you left there. A key maybe, if even to a dresser drawer. The canopy that says I am for the hitting of one man only. To look longingly outside your bottle of oxygen. Around the print of the boot the snow grows a halo of watery ice. My heart is an egret opening wide its wings when I forgive you. Love is always a mad generous falling. Love does stand in the lake and watch time burn. Love does. Paper that bursts into fire. (And maybe that is the difference: lust is temporal, and love in non-temporal.) Nevertheless, I have wanted to lie with you. Riding your bike late at night to watch the crematorium smoke curl over Oakland. We threw bottles at the wall. I would like to run with the confidence of mice. Survival is a shot outside of time. An exploding force that just keeps going. My pulse is balanced on the edge of a knife. And all night the floorboards inside me tremble as the elephant approaches. Chestnuts wrapped in golden honey. Then why was I always turning maple leaves, as if each one could be a key to get me out of here? I want to sleep inside a tree for a thousand years. And by being vegetal say what the wind says. Some escape from the lexicon of choices. I have hidden myself in a maze of soft lined corridors. I chose an opium of lullabies long ago. Is it my own cowardice that makes me nauseous? Where is the broccoli that makes you strong enough to go on in the face of despair? They stitched me together, like beadwork into the side of a shepherd’s purse. Embroider this statue in red beads. Feel ashamed when you look at me. Feel the whispering of your own lost nerve. Underneath the paint they found the iron pigment of her heme. Call me. Call me. Call me. I am aching for someone to put their hand on my solar plexus and say This was enough. This river of light was enough. I want to believe we are lining a nest. And that the resonance of darkness is retained. I looked up to the white sky beyond the young oak leaves and wanted to hear the music of the spheres. We orbit on a note achieved by the soul’s resistance. Can’t you see me dancing myself into exhaustion? I should be so lucky, good, honored — As to be blue — the sky gone hypoxic. Bruised valley sweetened with pollen.
Gaia Thomas is a Bay Area poet. She’s also a 2019 Zoeglossia fellow, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Her manuscript Serotine was a finalist for the Carolyn Bush award. She loves to get hopped up on coffee and study critical theory. She sometimes lectures on
Gaia's Book Recommendations
Autobiography in Words by Susan Noel
A series of brightly lucid prose poems. Navigations of life on Earth. I felt deeply understood by these words.
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Nest by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
A domestic life less ordinary. Berssenbrugge explores the parameters of home and home-ish-ness. Is it made by light? Is it made by attention? What is in the shadow of the frame?
Here by C.S. Giscombe
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Good Stock Strange Blood by Dawn Lundy Martin
Winner of the 2019 Kingsley Tufts Award. Tender. Risky. Brilliant. Exacting. Marvelous. A masterclass in poetics."