When I was young a teacher told me all
artists dream about tidal waves
(James Joyce, for example)
so when the horizon came down blue
and heavy I wasn’t exactly unprepared.
I also know scientists hate that term:
“It’s nothing to do with the tide,”
though when you see me
it’s a moonpull
as much as it is anything.
Think about it — I mean, ever notice
they call it lunacy
like the moon’s got her own
special kind of hysteria
just because sometimes gravity doesn’t work
quite the way they like?
Men are always policing my mouth like that:
“You can’t bone me,” for example.
Like I’m a butterfly
that won’t stay in its goddamned net.
It’s a good reason to never trust entomologists
with their pins and their bell jars,
looking at your wings thinking catch,
thinking mount, separating the art
from the artist
with their little knives,
so they can go back to enjoying
their molesters and rapists in peace
while I wane and wax
into something unignorable:
I’ve got the kind of light
you name galaxies after.
Andromeda, for example,
which means “ruler of men”
so, of course,
they stripped her naked and chained her
to a rock.
As the tide crawls in on its wet hands
I pinch my nose,
which hurts, with all the metal in it,
and that’s a funny way for the universe to end,
or begin, as it will.
Remember me like nails breaking on chalkboard. Remember me
like childhood dreams where you must drown yourself in thick
swampwater before they come for you and like papercuts that
won’t stop bleeding, like a scar from the night that turned out to
be the worst night of your life. Remember your life. Remember
your life like my panic attacks and their side-effect of gastrointestinal
distress, like my guts lurch each time my ears ring my eyes blur my
palms sweat like I’m waiting for the first first date in the world. Remember
your first date. Remember your hands and her hands and armrests
and your hands and her hands and the moment is gone and you
stare at your ceiling all night with the greatest emptiness. Remember
me like the greatest emptiness, like the bruise you left on my thigh
was invisible ink like your spit was invisible ink like your breath was
invisible ink and the special light I need to read the words is the one
in my bedroom. Remember me like fingers down the throat of the
first time you felt known. Remember feeling known. Remember feeling
known like it leaves your body with so much saliva and bruised
knees and running tapwater, remember me like running tapwater.
Remember me like I put myself back together, like I literally re-member
myself every morning out of what’s left when I wake up. I dust my
limbs I grease my joints I blow up my lungs soft like plastic bags
carrying nothing. Remember me like a portrait in your attic that
you never throw away, that forgets you more and more each time
you look at it.
The witch lives in a house on chicken legs. Outside,
she flies with mortar and pestle; she is perpetual motion
a woman cannot stop, I cannot stop. The forest around her is
old chestnut stability; trees wave her home
with open arms; trinkets droop from their limbs
like pieces of forgotten lovers. The witch cooks
love down in a pot. She feeds herself to
grows stronger. She is waiting.
Another woman carves her house into my arm;
the lines filled with ink like a flooding river Styx. I can find
my way there when I forget everything else,
when my gums lose their pink grip on teeth
because the edge of a cliff
is no place for salvation — quite the opposite. The edge
of a cliff is for jumping, is for ends, is for cutting the ribbon around
the throat till the head rolls down. Till my monstrosity is exposed.
Pick it up and bring it back. Give it to me like a first kiss.
You see me, you know me.
I am cooking love in a hot black pot. I have
so many recipes and even more time. I have salt. I have pepper.
I have fresh parsley if it comes to that. The witch
The witch lives in a house on my arm;
she is my blueprint like veins are and I am cooking
with mortar and pestle, I am perpetual motion,
I grow stronger — study my mother sauces
and my eyes darken like roux
as I wait.
You looked so far away I felt crazed; gutted myself like
a fish and dug in, laid my entrails bare and ruby-red on
your grandfather’s table and watched you rifle through
them like cheap rings at a weekend market, like I’d make
your fingers swell and stain green and my rubies would
fall off in a day’s wear. This is how you look when I show
you all I have, spread myself before you like a picnic:
here a little bottle of what makes me cry most, a glass
dish of my greatest fears, a tin of mille-feuille folded
from the kind of trust that gives your bones an earthquake,
sugared with the weight of my lashes on your shoulder
as you sleep, the rising and falling of windswept sand
dunes that move with your moods till I’m left on flat
ground with nothing around for miles except the echo
of my own heart in my own ears, chicken head on feather
body, thoughts running all over like lost, motherless children.
Sonya Vatomsky is a Moscow-born, Seattle-raised feminist poet and essayist. She edits and reviews poetry at Fruita Pulp & her chapbook MY HEART IN ASPIC is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press. Find her online at sonyavatomsky.tumblr.com