Letter From the Underworld
Sometimes I think you’ve forgotten me here
in this small house, snow piled in grey heaps
by the door, snow drifting like fallout past
the windows. Even the birds have stopped
coming to the feeder. The house smells of marijuana
and mildew and the baby chews my breasts.
My body has become borderless; there’s a blank
spot in the middle, pool with black flowers, red heart
of the dead swan—to be a woman is to be empty
space, closed mouth, broken jar. Blood in the baby’s
milk. I wish I’d known. The baby cries and I sing
and I drive to the grocery and I act like I’m alive
and the seams unravel. Turnip, cabbage, lamb,
every hour loses a name. Dishwasher, diaper, ash,
ash, ash. It’s cold in hell this time of year. And who
ever I was disassembled, snuffed out—the same.
I found my seal skin in a locked drawer. He kept the loaded gun by the back door. Wolves, he said. Men who wouldn’t hesitate with a woman like me. For safety. What he meant was to know my place. What man ever saved me? I could taste salt in my mouth. Cormorants wheeled over the shore. The pelt felt stiff. In the mirror my face a wax mask. My son already had fur behind his ears. He slept in my arms. I drew the skin over my head. Before the past returned and locked the doors I took my boy to the edge of the cliff. Swells broke. We leapt. Salt-light. Anemone. Limpits. I heard gunshots from the shore.
Sara Quinn Rivara’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Word Riot, Blackbird, Poemeleon, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, RHINO, Split Lip, 32 Poems and numerous others. A native Midwesterner, She now lives in Portland, Oregon.