Early Life: Triptych

by KATHERINE SONIAT

A cross on every hill/A star, a minaret/ So many graves to fill/
O love, aren’t you tired yet? —Quebec folksong

i Thinasadime Fish set out for the cat, roof-garden water lilies afloat, she walks to the shore at midnight. Everything slippery as eel in the marsh. Murk and mirrorsheen of the departed. Moon over the reeds, she sits cross-legged. The posture of waiting, of winter. Her inner gaze goes to a party where the man at her table lets his surname drop: Thinasadime. Without blood, liver, or heart, he’s part of the new monotony. The kind at large when nothing weighty is allowed through the gate. Even those who hint (loudly) of royalty are limited to lack of organs and thought. Human-been-there-done-thats (with coins for teeth) lick their fingers, bite greasy ribs. ii matter She changes to a limousine—sleekest of the grand vehicles. A hard capsule to swallow when she’s riding in it. City bulbously black, cars blunder around without headlights. And all she can do is ask why. Why that? Why this total eclipse; was darkness the first sign of dread ever? Streets vanish. Animal tails wave from a dumpster. So much extinguished. Extinct. (blood knots in her pelvis) Bomb #1 flourishes in florescent-green plutonium. Second nature (hers) hears the great wheel grind to a halt. Ready to venture, Is this it? This is it, she repeats, our time come round in our land. War’s torsos spread through grass and into the mountains. Foresight, hindsight—none of it matters. iii genetics Stuck in sloppy red oils, the creatures remaining. Hieronymous Bosch slumps in dream (or deeper dimensions) after all that cross-eyed wisdom of the elders. Alarm blasts her from the limo, thoughts shaping Get up, go find what’s new, those with the motherless, unfathered auras : : young men stationed at four corners of her roof garden. Not one shrinks in denial (or seems flatly soulless). Into their thoracic cavities she peers for hearts plump enough to fit in the palm of her hand. (and each of them has one) Why no roof, she wonders, while brilliance busts up the moon. All a roof can do is kill you, yells a man by the water lily. Me, you, our whole long line from butchers to the sad clairvoyants.

KATHERINE SONIAT's sixth collection of poetry—A Raft, A Boat, A Bridge—is recently out from Dream Horse Press. The Swing Girl, published by Louisiana State University Press, was selected as Best Collection of 2011 by the Poetry Council of North Carolina. A Shared Life won the Iowa Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared recently in Women’s Review of Books, Citron, Hotel Amerika and Crazyhorse, among others. She teaches in the Great Smokies Writers Program at UNC-Asheville. For more information, see: www.katherinesoniat.com.