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Category archive for: Rachel Wetzsteon

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The inky leaves,

the reams of lamenting

left me angry I was not living, so I left off,

stowed the notebooks with the hotel soaps and mix tapes

in a hard-to-open drawer—

but I could not stay away,

pined for each unwritten-down day

until I caved in, got another,

placed it beside a mug and a candle

on the table by my bedroom window

where now the book is flooding me

with all the ravings it might be:

A pep talk or a picked scab,

a compass or a spigot,

a greenhouse or a trash heap,

a flashlight or a shovel?

An airless room where actors rehearse

for plays that run one night if that,

or a stage on which to get the roles just right?

A chronicle of botched focus

proving nothing but the self’s huge shadow—

not moonlight but how I felt in the moonlight?

A box of fantasies or facts,

the salty remarks I wish I’d made

or the leaden ones I did make?

A different sentence to finish each time:

if my mind were a clear glass of water, I’d…?

And was the diary’s “dear”

an ideal reader I stretched to impress

or a pale and fatal siren

slowly doling paralyzing poison?

And when I said I “kept” a journal,

did I mean by that prison or salvage?

Spiral-bound quotidiana,

graphic graph-paper confessions

of nights laminated or purged,

lurid or dry recounting

of lists or hopes or errors or dreams,

prized sayings divided by asterisks

or secrets divined by no one,

choose me, impose a method, so that

tonight I write something more

in my brand-new, virginal journal

than today I bought a journal;

help me to fill this big blank book of days.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Elevator Music

A slam without a goodbye,

and pangs of the world ending

by the sixth-floor elevator

until you run out, arms extended,

and moist eyes meet moist eyes

as the tough old globe spins on.

Anger’s a thing of darkness, but

forgiveness is Shakespearean: it calls for

gardens and dances, lanterns strung from trees.

I am no dancer, so instead I’ll tell you

that rage, like everything else of late,

has suffered a sea change: no longer

a bleak Bermuda Triangle

in which my flailing ardor drowned,

it’s a bit of trash, a bottle cap

bobbing on gentle waters—

much like the way this awful plaid carpet

absorbs a tear that will have dried

next time the elevator brings me here.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

The Wanderer’s New Life

I have wept longer than becomes a man.

My face in the river shows me these

three day’s vigil in grim remonstrance—

eyes red, beard beginning, I’m Narcissus’

ugly brother, the one who traveled as far

from water as he could. She’s dead to me.

That much I knew when she slipped from my arms

to listen for the cries of the hunter.

And I must die in this muddy river.

One more time I will summon her, that

they may say of me I loved her to the last.

The miller’s daughter, let me remember…

a girl who shone, whose eyes slew devils,

who loved me briefly. But suddenly

the maid of the mill is laughable; I see her

pinched-up eyes inspecting the hunter’s

clothing, I see them coupling in a haystack far

from her father, and I cannot drown. It is the maid

I loved who’s dead; I am free to go. No longer

will I throw my heart into songs that

send her heavenward; I will sing of snow,

of fish, of other things. My faded

miller’s slut, I whisper into your ears

this final time the fact that will

reduce you to whorish nothings:

hunters cannot rhyme. The lindens

will be my loves from this day forward,

the river, my goddess; with washed eyes

I will rise from this sluggish bed

where late I moaned and cried. And wander!

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Letter from a Leprosarium

Dear monologist/friend extraordinaire:

Thank you for the complimentary copy.

We passed it around like smut or chocolate,

sorry only that the lazaretto’s

sad lack of bookmarks and gold stars

(not to mention our decaying hands)

hindered our ability to note

our favorite passages. How wrenchingly

you’ve made a malady a metaphor,

our boils and wails to social awkwardness

perceptively, triumphantly aligned.

Skin clearing up some, wish you were here;

do keep us posted on your future work.

Yours in solidarity,

The Lepers.

P.S: how well lies can pass the time.

Now blow the skin-flakes off this stinking page,

squeeze the last dewdrop from your lemon peel,

flop down on your velvet armchair and

take it from us that you have done us wrong,

done us disservice—your props could have been

a kiss, a camera and a stethoscope;

instead you brought a ballpoint and a mirror,

stored both inside that ludicrous black cape,

and when you drove up to the colony

you never left your car. You limned our limbs,

more partial to your punning than our howling;

you nibbled on our necks from far away

and from that distance couldn’t know our hair

turns white, not green. We wonder what poor wretch

you’ll pick on next; we shiver in the night

when the light dawns that we were never seen.

P.P.S: Come back again someday.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.