Featured Writer #105 - Diane Seuss

Diane Seusscyanotype print of white flowers on blue background

Rhapsody

 

I like to call marriage state-sponsored

fucking. To return

to the world I must learn

how to love the world again. My problem

is with the word again. I don’t like repeat

performances. I come from a long line

of hungry people who hate leftovers.

The only movie I can watch more than once

is the original Frankenstein. I like the present

tense of spectacle. It’s like eating

 

an over-sour pickle. Wakes you up but hurts

your gonads. I got good

at romance early by choosing to wear pink

knee socks to the funeral. I sat on the floor

of the hearse on the ride from the church

to the cemetery, “making the best of it.” That’s

romance. It’s like when my mother took me to see

Mary Poppins for my eighth birthday and it turned her

into a flaming bitch. I understand why you didn’t like it,

I said to her, but I really loved it because I’m a kid.

 

Actually I hated it as much as she did.

That’s romance. Or when she went to the slaughterhouse

to pick up a cow heart for my science project.

It was still warm, wrapped in white paper.

They handed it over like a newborn and she gagged

all the way home. That’s romance. Some poet wrote

that he adores economy and requires precision.

I actually looked for antonyms:

extravagance, ignorance, imprudence, negligence, squandering.

I felt like a poor kid who finds a quarter and gorges

 

themselves on penny candy. From then on, everything

I created or promoted would be Rococo. Bows

and beams of sunlight festooning the candelabra

of the bewigged swing set. I have oppositional

poetry disorder. I want to express

my opinion about people expressing their opinions.

If only I could jump on the back of a motorcycle

and ride into the sweet potato field where the mother

deer flash their hooves and roar, and lay flat on the snake-laced

ground at midnight and watch the empty spectacle of the numb

 

satellites’ mindless circling that looks a lot like a boob

who thinks they’ve found nirvana. And to observe

with a jaundiced eye the skunk family march in a line

out of the cedar swamp and eat crayfish from a washtub. I want a papa

bear to split the Tree of Life down the middle scattering

the wormy apples. His furry berry-stained maw

such a display of what used to be called reality.

I want the next turn I make to be unearned.

Like getting gang-banged in a greenhouse at age fourteen

and calling it a honeymoon. I guess now that would be called

 

trauma, a word I’ve grown to hate. It’s like a cute puppy

who got old and whose only new trick is shitting in the house,

or a Band-Aid they call “flesh colored”

that only matches the flesh of the owner of the Band-Aid

company. A word can be overused into emptiness,

which is also a banality, so don’t tell anyone you love them.

If you call fucking making love I’ll kill you in your sleep.

Don’t say I do. It’s what suckers say, what liars say,

never take an oath wearing clothes that have to be hung

on padded hangers.

 

When women are murdered

people on TV always comment on the victim’s cheerfulness.

Like being a songful canary should have kept her

from getting her throat slit. My advice is to live on a street

in which no one will say, when you’re murdered,

things like that don’t happen here. Live in a neighborhood

where every house is considered a scar on the face

of France. My adult son calls me at noon to ask

if I ever loved his father. How can I

express that marital love is twelve banalities ago?

 

It’s like asking if I liked the taste of peaches

when I was a toddler. I preferred

smoke, catalpa worms, bowling trophies,

and using tweezers to remove the lit-up ass of a firefly

so I could smear it around my finger like a wedding ring.

The adage is that a cynic is a broken romantic

except for Arthur Rimbaud who was born and died

a misanthropic shrew. I would like to conjecture

that a romantic is a cynic who has been infected

with resurrection metaphors and believes in the integrity

 

of a good

line break. I know

someone who saw a famous

lounge singer carried out

of a Vegas hotel

on a stretcher with a broken

light bulb in his ass.

Be that guy.

Don’t be Jesus, be the Shroud.

Don’t be the savior, be the stain.

 

 

"Rhapsody" also appears in Ninth Letter Fall/Winter 2021-22 (vol. 18 no. 1), published in January 2022.

 


Diane Seuss is the author of frank:sonnets (Graywolf, 2021); Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks (Graywolf, 2018); Four-Legged Girl (Graywolf, 2015), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (Univ. of Massachusett, 2010), winner of the Juniper Prize. A 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, she is the recipient of a 2021 John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

 

 


 

This project is partially supported by the Illinois Arts Council

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