Sarah Wetzel is the author of the poetry collection, All Our Davids, forthcoming
from Terrapin Books. She is also the author of River Electric with Light, which
won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2015,
and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was
published in 2010. A PhD student in Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate
Center in New York, Sarah, when she can, teaches creative writing at The American
University of Rome, Italy. Not surprisingly, she spends a lot of time on planes. You
can read samples of her work at www.sarahwetzel.com.
Then I Had the Idea
there wasn't a good reason, the train left too soon, an email wasn't sent
the flowers never arrived
I wanted a baby and then I didn't
there was a reason
I tried with first one then the other
pretending becoming a way of becoming and then
about Curtis before he killed himself
that it might have been a little my fault
the phone didn't ring the phone rang but I wasn't there
I meant what I said
if you have to choose between me and another woman, go
I never wanted a baby not even someone else's
about alchemy about magic about men with unplaceable accents
about my mother's father about Steve about driving a car
the distance between a child's feet and the brakes
there is a lake in Rome that no one has named
there are many more hills than seven
there is a river with seventeen names, all of them mine
The Missing Century
My neighbor Helen was in the hospital two weeks
with a broken hip. She lives alone and has very good insurance.
It took her seven hours to reach her phone to call for help.
I only found out when she returned.
I have got to start paying attention.
One time I joked to a friend that the only way I knew Helen
was still alive was that her newspaper appeared
at her door between 7 and 9AM
and by mid-afternoon, it disappeared.
D calls me even when I tell him I'm busy.
I call D and K and M every day. I call my father
every forty-eight hours. There are many ways
to go missing. For three days, I didn't notice
the newspapers piling up. For another ten days,
I didn't notice that newspapers didn't arrive.
The pipe breaks in the back of the refrigerator
or the washing machine and water spreads over the wood floors
like the soft body of a prehistoric octopus
lifting and learning the ways that wood moves when wet.
I offered to bring her groceries but she said
she'd ordered enough to last at least a week.
It takes a lot to disappear but just a little to go missing.
The body can go without food for three weeks,
water for three days. The body can barely survive
three minutes without air. Plastic bags
come with a warning for children.
Twenty-three-hundred people go missing
in America each day. Two things to notice:
there is a giant plastic bag over the head of our century
and we're forgetting to breathe.
After seeing the paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593)
A small white fish swims through my mind—
a clump of undissolved vitreous gel
floating at the back of the eye
or like a dream that casts a shadow
on the retina, a crustacean
with its myriad legs as eyelashes.
Fire, Water, and Earth in Vienna and Summer.
Spring, Fall, and Winter in Rome.
Air was mislaid
between Prague and Paris. Strangeness counted
at least in the sixteenth century
if only with the aristocrats
who demanded some sort of reassurance
that it wasn't ending. Yet even now
there’s an ambiguity occurring
in the middle of any ritual. You said you loved
the word liminality, which in Latin
We are all getting older
and like that
it was ending.
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