by | Jun 13, 2023 | Issue Thirty-Three, Poetry

Jane Morris Reads Wide Sargasso Sea as She Sits for Rosetti

the fascination of a captive woman. the impossible pulp of full lips & large sad eyes, the long pale fingers fiddling with her wedding band as she anxiously awaits her husband’s rage. her thick auburn hair falls in waves like a sunset as the crows caw out her fate behind her in the grey sky, an omen of death here & luck elsewhere. he says he loves me but when I look at his paintings the woman in them is someone else. my beauty blacker & more brooding than hers. her perfect features, the fig of fidelity against her back. only the gaze is right. she stares into the middle distance, pensive, an expression I know from photographs, from the memories carried by the body & the body alone, of a woman caught between artists. how even when the mind is fooled, the rest of the body knows. it knows. do you hear me? I know.

candles 		 the first flight 		 the second.
              stay to watch			the passage
                           how to get away	 the battlements 	sat there quietly
the sky		 red 		all my life
            the orchids and the stephanotis and the jasmine and the tree of life in flames
                           the		 call 
the man who hated me 		caught my hair 	it streamed 		 like wings
                when I looked over the edge		 the sky 	 screamed and I thought 
                            it burned up again to light me along the dark 1

 1 Source text: Rhys, J. (1992). In Wide Sargasso Sea: A Novel (pp. 170–171). W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

American Murder Ballad

“My girl, my girl, don't you lie to me/
Tell me where did you sleep last night”
she who drinks starlight is drowning
among the black swaying boughs of pines 
opaque needle-bundles silhouetted against 
the sooty sky ;; a train whistle howls
in the distance ,, its sound like a night
spent alone ;; her throat fills with liquid ;;
her body,, apart ,, shivers ;; she is clothed
in a pale thin nightgown ;; the wind 
which whispers her nipples to hard pips 
her only companion tonight ;; despite
what he will say ;; she has been faithful ;;
one man is more than enough trouble ;;
at home ,, he plucks a guitar and croons
the blues on the porch ,, practicing his story ;;
in the morning she will pace on bare feet
back to him, his jealousy closing
like a fist around her breathless neck ;;
she will place ;; a cold kiss ;; on his lips ;;
by tomorrow night ;; they will be gone ;;
the sounds of the wind and the trains 
and the blues music will settle 
like silence on the remainder ;; a baleful
refrain ;; but for the high sough of air 
through the pine needles ;; or the chords
of dusty musicians who love only
an instrument ,, they would not be mourned

Reynardine’s Young Woman Watches Thelma and Louise

“Day and night and night and day she followed him, his teeth did shine/
And he led her o'er the mountain, did that sly bold Reynadine”
—Carolina Chocolate Drops
the warbling spring slopes down to touch your shoulder
where blouse slips below socket & you remember
the way sun was a kind of melancholy hope in those days
when his hand on your shoulder didn’t yet mean
shut the fuck up, you hear me? damn bitch

evenings that began at two p.m., the lengthening of light
until sunset sat on the world, blazing red tresses of glow
& you, bathing in it as if it would keep you safe 
elixir of youth & illusion:
the shimmering brightness of oncoming winter

& you followed him, with his fox grin & crooked teeth
over the hills until your teenage years grew small
in the rearview mirror, the late afternoon light behind you
haloing your hair as your hands rest on the steering wheel
driving your own car into the quiet possibilities of night

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