Saturday, July 30, 2016
This country has no lamps for its alleys,
but I know the streets like the body
of a whore, those wounded stones, valleys
of dark water. There is sorrow
in wet nights, and the yields will not give.
I don’t know what is worse, to burn or to drown,
but either way there is famine. The dog will howl
in the limping city, the wasp will burrow
deep in the unforgiving plum, and tonight,
I will learn the bend of a girl, the give
and take, the way to turn her hard dirt
so I won’t starve on my own instinct,
so I won’t bite through my own foul tongue.
That flesh is ripe. It will bleed and run.
That flesh is ripe. It will bleed and run
if I’m not careful, but I am a patient man,
and your body is a map I can read
with my hands. Be a compass, a candle.
I am desperate for a course, and your body
is the way back. I miss a woman in my bed,
but I am too old for rules, for routes.
You, though, you can be my true North,
be a heave of iron, the sad, round
spinning Earth, and I will be the glass face,
the grid, the bearings. A man doesn’t need
directions, his heart is a magnet, it pulls,
his hands steady the steep pitch and roll.
My hands steady your steep pitch and roll,
but these hills are on fire and I
haven’t seen the sky in years. Direction?
I am your geography. I am your
book of maps. I am your sun. And you,
tiny planet, you insignificant
collection of stars, will spin and spin
until you burst into flame. Your black lakes
will boil, your fields sear, your safe little houses
of mothers will blaze, and I will rattle
your paper walls, my hot mouth at the door.
I will break the bones of this town. I will
burn down every tree, scald every girl I touch.
And you? You will blister. You will scorch.
You will blister, you will scorch, you
will burn you wicked little crow.
This is how it happens. This is how you die.
Don’t believe any of this. My hands are liars.
The way they touch you, the way
they fall on your body like moonlight, like rain.
Maybe it’s like this: maybe you drown.
Let’s say there is a black lake. Let’s say
there are hands, many hands, hands in your hair,
hands in your mouth, hands covering your mouth,
holding your mouth underwater. No, let’s say
the hands are stars, falling in the water
like hot stones. Open your mouth. Catch one.
This will keep you from drowning. This will save us both.
I tried to save you, to keep you from drowning.
How was I to know you were made of glass?
This whole city is a boneyard of broken girls,
slight wrists and stony kneecaps like landmines
under the sand. There is nothing left of you,
just threads of hair on a pillow, a damp dress,
be careful where you walk, girl. Every night
a new burning, every night I melt you down.
Tinder bound and boxed, you will love me.
My body can be the house you hide in,
and I will say, this is how you love,
and I will say, this is how you pray.
You were built for my kneeling, your mouth,
my own collection of trembling boughs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jen Lambert is a founding editor of Spark Wheel Press and burntdistrict magazine. She received an MFA from the University of Nebraska, and her work has appeared in journals such as Pank, The Los Angeles Review, Sugar House Review, and Redactions, among others. This recording is five sonnets from a longer series, Visitations.
ABOUT THE SOUND OF SUGAR:
We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our seven issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.