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Today's poem is by Paul Guest


The Last Words of Alice the Goon

Understand me now: the light is lace
or the shell of a pearl, thinned out,
and I'm no more the rag doll or arch-foe.
All this life I've toed this precipice,
the draft of the voice denied me
rising up in my face like a sad dream
in which my throat doesn't squawk
like a bird tearing through the flesh
as if it were air. As if it were air,
it's easy now to carry a tune, to hold
in my heart a human song. Easy
to hold my heart as though I had one.
Imagine how the angels might sing
for some novelty in heaven.
Imagine my lungs emptied out for you.
Imagine this language made null
and I will be glad and full,
permitted these simple words at the last.
I had no interest in the sea
and all its salt, all its plunging dark,
yet I was made to fight and lose
utterly in it, wet to my stupid skeleton—
all I am, really. Once I swam
deep as hurt to the sand floor of the sea
and held myself like a secret breath
because I was so cold. For mermaids
I waited in long halls of kelp
that swayed like their limpid green hair,
but nothing came or sang
and above me the world and its heroes
sailed away. In that garden
I took in my hands and barely held
a shivering sea cucumber
and watched without blinking
as its side ruptured, spilling
crude organs, a pharynx, a gut, all
purple and eviscerated, streaming away.
Strange flower, it survived
this way: with nothing left in it,
nothing was left to devour
or desire. In it there was an end
to hunger. And rising up
from the water, this was a comfort.
This was a flower
and it occurred to me that I had no hair
in which to keep it,
except for what covered my arms
in coarse blackness. I am not a woman.
I am dying and all I want is for you
to hear at last the pulse
of wretched thunder caged in my chest.
I taste like the sea
and will be buried in it like plastic.
Once I was happy and have told you so.
I taste like the sea. Life ruptures
to save itself from itself.
O awkward spark set fat in the flesh,
I am no woman, only a doll
and dollop of tallow, bauble of bone, ingrown hair.
Enough, enough. Already I'm singing.



Copyright © 2002 Paul Guest All rights reserved
from Crab Orchard Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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