Poem-A-Day: Sarah Blake

Lately I’ve been exploring myth poetry and fairy tale poetry with my Creative Writing students. These are ekphrastic forms, responding in some way to some other art that has gone before –– in these cases, the art being cultural and literary. It’s amazing stuff, and I love it, and they seem to as well. In fact, every year I teach these, the myth poems and fairy tales poems my students write are sometimes their best work to date.

So I recently came across this myth poem, which offers the reader such a smooth transition from dreamlike story to gut punch. If you enjoyed Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s poem last week, even though this poem by Sarah Blake is stylistically different, my guess is you’ll dig on this one, too.

***

Aphrodite’s Dreaming

A shark bites my hip
and I watch the blood
curl out into the sea.

Poseidon pushes him
away and runs his hand
over the teethmarks, each
a little frown.

He’s having me
for tea, and everyone
is naked. He says, That’s
how fish are. Don’t be so

embarrassed. But that’s
not the right word.
I stir my tea with his
trident. I stir my tea

with his crown. I stir
my tea to forget
how he touches me,
knowing soon I’ll wake.

***

Sarah Blake is the author of Mr. West and the forthcoming collection, Let’s Not Live on Earth (both from Wesleyan University Press). An illustrated workbook accompanies her first chapbook, Named After Death (Banango Editions). In 2013, she was awarded a literature fellowship from the NEA. She lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and son. http://www.sarahblakepoetry.com

Poem-A-Day: Kelly Cressio-Moeller

The following is a common story, and because it is common, it must be told.

***

ON WHY I NO LONGER SIT AT THE WINDOW SEAT ON A TRAIN
Germany was like a step-mother: utterly familiar, utterly despised. ~ Erica Jong

It’s a good day for a lie-down, overcast and
wet-wooled – even the rain wants to be horizontal.
I am day-dreaming of goose down when I
enter the train, scoot into an open seat,
press my cheek against the streaked window.
The station’s soothing voice announces,
Zurückbleiben bitte, someone runs in just before
the doors close, slams me against the side
of the compartment, takes a lungful of my air.
In an accent foreign as my own, he asks
my name, if I “want some fun” back
at his room. I buy time before the next stop,
tell him I’m “Whitney from America”
(anything but my real name in his mouth).
Now he locks his arm through mine and thick
fingers jab my ribs. His leg, an anchor –
his pocked face smirks like he’s already
notched his belt.

I imagine the defence move my brother
taught me where I smash my palm heel into
some asshole’s nose, shifting bone into brain.
(Where is my Siegfried in this country of the
“Nibelungenlied”. What would Kriemhild do?)
My eyes ransack the forest of businessmen,
cutpurses, hausfraus, the heroin chic: rows of
enameled faces, cow-dumb, indifferent as teeth.
Let the Ausländer fight it out!

Thigh-grab, elbow-jab, hand-slap – his broken
English splinters the air. Whitney Houston
in my head singing “I Will Always Love You” on
some godforsaken loop as I mentally run through
my list of German imperatives: Hilfe! Polizei!
Vergewaltigung! (a word that takes longer to say
than the act it defines). I backhand him across
the mouth, escape before the doors slam.
He’s waving (waving!) through the glass,
a blurry fat-lipped sneer retreating – the air
staccatoed with rasps of my breath. It begins
to hail marbles (even the gods are throwing stones),
feathers or lightening bolts would feel just the same.

Only later with candlelight und Butterkuchen,
do I re-surface to Vivaldi’s soaring strings on the radio.
I mention my morning combat-commute.
My host shrugs his shoulders before loading
the Meissen with another helping of Schadenfreude.
He says, Da muβ man durch : ‘one must go through it’ –
as if it were a tunnel, something to be run through.

 

This poem first appeared in Tinderbox Poetry and appears here by permission of the author.

***

Kelly Cressio-Moeller has new work forthcoming in Poet Lore, THRUSH, and ZYZZYVA. Previously her work can be seen at Boxcar Poetry Review, burntdistrict, Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Hermeneutic Chaos Journal, Radar Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, THRUSH, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and ZYZZYVA among others. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. She is an Associate Editor at Glass Lyre Press. Visit her website at www.kellycressiomoeller.com.