OVERWINTERING

STEPHANIE CAWLEY

Another way to say haunting
is still alive. I wanted to study
the future but drove instead
through the city where I used to live.
Dreamed of planting, with friends,
seeds gently in the ground.
I knew it would rain.
I knew sunlight would kiss
their dirt houses. I couldn’t
in waking life or preparation
for catastrophe, maintain such
clear conviction. Landscape
with sagging snake plant. Landscape
with suburban flowerbed.
The present lurched ahead, taking
my grief with it and leaving
my thin resolve walking along
the coastline. The maps
of water grew bluer each day.
To imagine the pressure felt
by the edge of liquid as it boils
against the lip of a silver pan,
and to imagine its grief
when a hand comes to dial back
the heat. An absence is about what
waits on the other side of desire
for intimacy. My lack of interest.
My sweaty thighs. My sorrow
at having to mow down
the weedy patches of hair. I loved
to be unfurled with all the splendor
of a brooding moon, fat
and orange in the bottom
of the sky. I could feel
grief unstopper its bottle
and tip amber liquid down my throat.
I could feel my neck forked
with poison. The appetite for death
seemed a transient sickness
or a force to be shored up against,
a house before the hurricane,
cardboard taped with silver Xes
to the glass. I wasn’t an appetite. I was
a horizontal. I wanted the end
of lyric to spit me out
into a forest etched
with symbols. Now I lived
in a land I had been once
homesick for and felt its sickness
foaming at my ankles.
In my hometown, two cars
crashed into each other
when both drivers
OD’d but didn’t die.
I was again a curled little
beast skulking for trash
in the early evening dark.
My mossy chill of a mouth.
My malevolent girl
being born and born.

STEPHANIE CAWLEY is a poet from southern New Jersey. She is the author of My Heart But Not My Heart, winner of the Slope Book Prize chosen by Solmaz Sharif, as well as the chapbook A Wilderness (Gazing Grain Press). Her work has also appeared in the PEN Poetry Series, The Fanzine, West Branch, and TYPO, among other places. She has an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh and works at a community writing center.

TINY SPILLS
  • Your sign: Scorpio sun / Gemini moon / Aquarius rising
  • Best breakfast: Huevos rancheros
  • The answer: No.