Susan Terris: Four Poems
BALLERINA | BONES | MERMAIDS
| WICCAN SUMMER
Terris lives in San Francisco where she is a writer and a
teacher of writing. Her most recent books are CURVED SPACE
(La Jolla Poets Press, 1998) and NELL'S QUILT (Farrar,
Straus & Giroux, 1996). In 1999, she will have two new poetry
books published: EYE OF THE HOLOCAUST (Arctos Press)
and ANGELS OF BATAAN (Pudding House Publications).
Her many journal publications include The Antioch Review, The
Midwest Quarterly, Painted Bride Quarterly, Southern California
Anthology, Nimrod, and The Southern Poetry Review.
On-line she has had work in Recursive Angel, The Blue Penny
Quarterly, In Vivo, Switched-on Gutenberg, Kudzu, Conspire, Zuzu's
Petals, Zero City.
were on a bare stage somewhere,
under blue gels, and Balanchine wanted
make sure I was strong.
of admitting ankle-sprain,
retied ribbons on my practice shoes
stretched hamstrings at the barre.
told me to do a plié; then
his hand in the small of my back,
No arch, he said, flatten it.
nineteen or any linear age,
could feel skin-color tights webbing at
crotch, pleating below the knee
I remembered how he loathed im-
Reaching to smooth my tights,
touched my thigh, said, You're
fat. Silent, I turned from the barre,
a pin in him once, then again until
began to shrivel, until he popped.
past pools of hot blue light,
found a girl-child hunkered
the wings, arranging animals from
Ark. She was hanging them
a broomstick two by two, suspending
pair by their necks with silver wire.
frayed tutu jutted below her belly,
her laddered tights sagged at the knee.
up, she arched her back
picking a scab from her elbow
why I had popped my balloon.
are beautiful, she tells him. Elemental,
down, pure. He'd just watched her
from an Incan rock tomb
she'd dug up
single gray-white knuckle,
tuck in the pack that holds beak and
of an albatross.
home, she has sea lion scapulae
Baja, ribs of deer and boar,
vertebrae from Petra.
tells him of immigration in Amman
she was held until agents
them in her bag and,
maniacally, waved her through.
describes watching bones roil
the La Brea Tar Pits,
seeing them entombed in blue-white
ice, of how - after the accident -
touched the uncanny whiteness
her son's skull.
as storyteller, she relates these things.
looking away, she says,
are props for my ghost dance.
exorcise images of
flesh deserting our bones.
dive and fluke their way down
a moray eel jabs his head
caverns that phosphoresce
crevices to unreality.
intent until its currents
them through stippled tunnels, mazes
angelfish and Moorish idol nudge them
they plunge, swerve, tangled ribbons of hair fanning,
pausing, pulling, thrusting,
mystery of the unrehearsed,
scales: stars in pooled darkness
as they descend,
hands seining water,
canting outward as they stroke
to dolphin and humpback.
don't forget us,
beloveds, for we can still breathe songs
though sheathed, can love
eyes, hands, lips, tongues, for
and betrayal are in the mind,
we may be myths men fashioned,
the eel will snap his jaw,
force knows force and makes no other claims,
we've left our abalone mirrors and combs
reach of the rising tide.
a Perseid night in mid-August,
of liquid silver, ancient dust, a comet trail,
steeped in fumes of white azalea,
rustle of footsteps: vole and fox, rabbit and bobcat.
mud-daubed, our raven hair
and crackling, we unleash voices into the air.
us hot blood.
us the sweet-gold of bees and a hint of sting.
us rills of darkness and rivers of light.
us the gift of weightless song.
we circle a maypole of dew-blossomed vines,
soles into forest duff, and weave
spells to staunch the summer's flow.
© by Susan Terris. All rights reserved.