Writing and Art from the Middle and Beyond
Rebecca Aronson's books are Ghost Child of the Atalanta Bloom, winner of the 2016 Orison Books poetry prize, and Creature,Creature, winner of the Main-Traveled Roads poetry prize. Her awards include the Prairie Schooner Strouse Award, The Loft Speakeasy poetry prize, and several Pushcart nominations. She teaches writing, coordinates a visiting writers series, and co-curates Bad Mouth, a series of words and music in Albuquerque.
Ghost Child of the Atalanta Bloom
This is what it's like to be the sun, hovering
above a rising and falling sheet
draped on the body on the mattress,
the body which is also my body
when I am not floating in the shadowless upper corner
of the room. To be the sun
is to be a swirling column of dust motes
the light has caught
and to be the light itself.
I was asleep and I was light.
In the morning wash of bright sun
the building's windows flare
and disappear alternately and a bird
wheels toward its own reflection,
wing tips brushing glass, leaving a visible arc,
a contrail on the retina
like a path one could follow to the next world.
In the dream in which there was light
and no light everything shone
as if polished, even the doorway
I knew would close, which was brightest
just before it closed and in those seconds I stole
my body back through in time
to catch my own steadying breath.
Each print pulled loose
from the suck of sand and water
follows the child as he runs
along the seam of shore
which the quick waves stitch and unstitch
to erase the evidence
of his passage.
We sat on the porch in the rain
after the bed ritual—the boy
talking to himself, making noises
as if he were bouncing nebulae off the ceiling
though we didn't usually check.
Gnats drowned in the wine
and we swallowed them. Guitar drifted across the street
and some low singing, bicycle tires and car lights sliding
over it all, the trees and the sound of trees
At the table, hands accordion matches
into tiny sculptures which litter the surface
like fallen sentries, statues
toppled at the entrance to an Etruscan tomb.
Eagle-headed god boys down on their knees.
Where the child's fingers
had been in the wax, a dozen little worlds
smoothed round and lined up
along the table's edge.
An iron-striped sunset in the window.
Imagine that some days even the grass
could be an engine of desire. The tassels which flash
in the wind so the whole field mirrors
the sugar running in your veins.
Your mouth a cloud of grainy words.
Maybe it happened this way.
The lover who used to whistle a song
to the cracked sidewalk—
you'd have known it anywhere.
The sound would cut though a wall of people
to reveal him, before you'd met, grinning in the dark.
He knew you by your ass, you knew him by his song.
The wind in the grass frenzies.
It was a trick of the moon,
this creation story.
Under the clouded sky
the ground glows as if lit from within.
A night like that.
The light like no light I knew.
I Was the Girl Who Set the Field on Fire
Someone had left a can of lighter fluid
beside the trash cans.
There were plastic chairs,
womanly with their smooth white arms,
dry grass harrowing ankles
and small yellow moths drifting
among tasseled heads.
When she spun, the world tilted and blurred
to a golden rush.
Drops flew from the red can,
became the throng of this new hour,
stung and swarmed her limbs
lightly buzzing a song
She lit the single match
filched from its watch house
above the mantel—
the rough cap
flaring into sunburst—
the world a slingshot
flinging loose its load
of unfixed colors.
The pitch transformed
that spread to flaming trails, concentric
and growing wider around this girl
held in the thrall of her own knack.
Self-Portrait with Uterine Fibroids
I was never winged, never half-
caste of horse and human, barely vengeful,
only I am marked by this distortion.
Honorary gash, it bleeds me
and so depleted,
I deform. I get so empty
I nearly drift
on air. I make a river to hold my place.
I am the river, running copper.
I've gone translucent
as the wing of a nymph,
My skin is paper; I mean
it is barely a cover, like a single onion skin,
the pale blue leaf of an aerogram.
Once on a street corner smiling at a neighbor
I nearly died. All the blood a body holds
can leak out quickly. I'd never been
so lightly tethered.
I wobbled, slanted quickly
toward the ground.
I was a girl engulfed in flame,
but now I'm spectral, misted stone.
I haunt cosmetic counters, pinch
my cheeks, offer wan assurances:
I'm fine I'm fine I'm hardly anywhere near dead.
The Museum of Inattention
Here is a room of forgotten sweaters,
the orange silk scarf left at the Vancouver airport,
single gloves leaping from pockets, some of them
clutching crumpled bills. Here is a ballroom,
its elegant display of expired parking meters
shimmering under a dome of shooting stars.
The door I almost missed was so blue
my feet fell toward it and I was in,
like stepping into a puddle of sky.
I must have slept on the tram to the upper levels.
Here is me, turning away just as the baby
reaches my legs on his first room crossing.
I don't recall what floor this is.
This wing is a maze of classrooms,
each with a foggy window in an unmarked door
blank as a centaur's blind eye.
Here is the roof garden.
There I am shaking sand free from a beach towel—
and there is the birthday watch with its delicate shining strap
flying loose from the frame of my noticing.
Here is the bed I turned from my love in.
A cluster of words, the flock of ears they fled from.
Here are two throbbing packets of lost crushes—
the unrequited ones rudely knocking each other's edges,
the ones I never knew existed floating
like cartoon ghosts through cartoon walls.
The exit is invisible. Walk past it
and you'll find yourself where you usually go
at this same time on a different day.
You moan in your sleep, grinding the night down
to a bare leash that would snap
at the lightest tug. You are dreaming your freedom
in tight circles which widen
a hog's hair at a time, breadth
of breath that shimmies into the broad sky
and is gone. Poof. Who
doesn't long to disappear
like a body into a hole, a magic-show
pigeon, a margarita? Worry wakes you
seven times and seven times you circle,
excavating a bare path in the dense cover
of your bed. There is safety
in the hours of darkness, the air salty
as a long-buried bone. Sleep is thunderheads
just past the mountain. You sense a storm
panting on the horizon, your nose wet
with want; though it is heading your way
there is no knowing
if it will stay on course
or veer like a fox, the path foiled, far
from the sure lock of your hunger.
All of the poems appear in Ghost Child of the Atalanta Bloom, Orison Books 2017.
These poems also appear previously in these journals:
I-70 Review: “The Museum of Inattention,”
MARY: A Journal of New Writing: “Self Portrait with Uterine Fibroids”
The Pa-ris-American: “I Was the Girl Who Set the Field on Fire”