Erin Wilson‘s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Poetry Ireland Review, Envoi, Kestrel, A Journal of Literature and Art, On the Seawall, The Honest Ulsterman, The Adirondack Review, Natural Bridge, The Literary Review of Canada, and elsewhere. Her first collection, At Home with Disquiet, is due out in the spring of 2020 with Circling Rivers. She lives and writes in a small town in northern Ontario, Canada.
Delightfully, after you tug upon the curled white string
waiting for the prize to be set free from the hilltop
(that you perceive as a mountain),
leaf litter up to your knees,
you hold the tampon out before you
as though you might hypnotize me.
You are five pretending to be seventy,
“Now, just who might drink tea up here?”
Little misunderstood things like this are darling.
You are darling, whose cup runneth over with Oolong.
Only dark things move through the dark night, reproducing,
boosting one another, darkening darklings,
dark on top of dark. You hear the floorboards being
herded to the barn’s stall out back. You hear dark
animals shuttling. Black milk shunts in ribbons
to be sucked up by dark creatures for sustenance.
You see hooves.
When a head tips back in ecstasy,
you’re hurt by a blood-bed housing long white chompers.
Even though it is a cross between a community centre
and a living room (albeit lacking a couch)
you are initially shaken with fear.
That is, until you walk up the aisle
and lay your hands upon the casket.
With your face tipped forward
death’s gleam shines up from the it and upon you
as though lighting your chin from a buttercup.
How relieved you are, “It’s not grandma; only plastic!”
You rise onto your tippy toes so that you might touch
the marbled chartreuse bowl that once held her.
You like to be scared.
Well, you like to be scared on a schedule.
For hide and seek you stand in a closet,
tell me not to be afraid
and then jump out.
You like to hide me in the laundry basket
then wonder where I am.
One time I am upstairs in your bedroom.
You run downstairs to get an apple
and then when you come back I am standing,
plain sight, but in a new location.
You cry and cry.
There are no words to console you.
We lie on the couch, heart to heart.
You plump, then use my breasts for pillows.
Your weight begins to labour my breathing.
The soles of your feet graze my ankles.
“I’ll always lie like this, Mommy.”
“Yes,” I chime, “we will always, always lie like this.”
An Untitled Rothko
“It was as if what he’d reached once–call it a truth, meaning, or absolute–was so vitally important to him that he had to keep on trying to get to it again. A point in infinity where beauty, truth, feeling and experience come together; a level of reality which makes all other levels of reality seem pale, uninteresting, insignificant.”
Geneviève Vidal on Rothko
i. The river is a band of steel-shine, bent into an ingot of colour that defies a name,
ii. the banks are sheaves of wheat shaken in the forsaken’s clenched fist,
iii. the fish, flickerings, crescents plunging the lunky conveyor belt moving up the mainstream.
The son’s cuffs are folded three times as he wades with weighted pockets in pursuit of the threading, a streak of light, an aberration of colour, a hovering, a playful patient presence, a puzzle piece never quite fitted or still.
He is fishing.
Atoms for Adams
Because of when I was born
my mind seems at home thinking
atoms are about the smallest things.
Atoms, only a placeholder
anyway. Since then, through
the outer corridors of science
and semantics, quarks
have been whizzing along.
Listen, once Empedocles thought
earth, air, fire and water
were everything, and Thales
thought it alone was water.
Does it really matter?
Pussy willow, I say
into the oncoming of spring.
Dark matter, Mrs. Sharma
swelters, taking Mr. Sharma
erotically into her many arms.
Something enters something.
When I lie down to bed
and feel the weight of the
thousand sorrows, yours,
not mine, I scoop a luminous
cradle of sparkling seems-like-
nothings into my palms.
I put my face to them as though
looking upon a moonlit pond,
and I breathe, Please, dear
little building blocks of civilization
that floss continuously through walls
and conversations, do your work
and transgress the worried skein
of his fractured mind, carry aloft
the heat and moistness from my
mouth, the same mouth that
once kissed his rumpled brow.
Carry these light harbouring
black seeds in a child-drawn cloud,
the smallest luminous energies
One night is the head with an eye-door.
One night like every other,
you fold the eye-door
and lay it in the dresser,
blessed quiet sweater.
One night you close the drawer,
climb into bed.
One night every chicken in the coop
sleeps, little moons tucked into puddles.
Feathers are layered.
Feathers are laminous.
Feathers are countable and foreseen,
compose a complacent fan.
No fowl will disturb you.
One night is one night is every other.
One night is sanctified.
One night is moth-eaten, platitudinous.
One night is portal, safe passage of time.
One night is sealed, is a sealing,
the ceiling is white, a vestigial christening gown.
One night the eye-door is ripped open.
One night and always that sound — torn tape, wrecked adhesive.
One night and always the filling of a vacuum.
One night he comes to you,
his eye-door having torn
every living fowl to pieces.
Feathers are severed fingers.
Bloody, he crawls into your bed.
Body, he crawls into your bed.
Moon-slick with bloody feathers,
he crawls into your bed.
A thousand reflected moons, bleeding.
His heart is a wounded bird.
Proof. You feel it.
It is beside you.
It is tragic under cover.
It is trying to get back to the eye-door.
Around your naked legs it writhes, beheaded.
Around his neck, headless, a cowl,
your quiet sweater rived to ribbons.
One night lanugo blue and crematory red fix the heavens.
One night an apocalypse in the orange trees.
One night a screaming from empty spaces.
One night every eye-door! Time is stymied.
One night accesses every other.
There will always be an injured bird
struggling for resurrection
in your little bed.
It displeases me that he smokes,
so he smokes only mugwort.
He is working an O’Keeffe print
from an old Life magazine.
The flower now smells of ash.
What he cuts bears a cauterization
of his, and his alone, hands.
He frames the flower, Black Iris, 1926,
and a little bit of the accompanying text.
Then we carry in the couch.
There are two sides to the cushions.
He could place them beige side-up
but instinctively prefers the sprawling floral print.
We sit beside one another and consider
it’s a fire wearing an iron chastity belt,
a snapshot of coral reef with undulating seaweed,
how my labia still carry the christening
of his cranium.
“Nobody sees a flower—really—
it is too small—we haven’t time…”
He lights one of his shabby
hand-rolled cigarettes. Inhales.