Carole Glasser Langille is the author of four books of poems, two collections of short stories and two children's books. Her last book of poetry, Church of the Exquisite Panic: The Ophelia Poems was nominated for the Atlantic Poetry Prize and her last book of short stories I Am What I Am Because You Are What You Are was nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Award for Short Fiction.
“The soul, which is spirit , cannot dwell in dust; it is carried along to dwell in blood.”
St. Augustine, The Confessions
My figment, my flirt, my false friend,
who do you favour? What’s your fee? You can depend
on craters and valleys and friction
to warn — you will not be able to flaunt your fiction
forever. You are mine. Though you and I
have different views and count different lines with sly
and varying perspectives. I no longer know when the race
began or why I culled what I culled and left so much to waste,
my colourful, wilting mourning glory. When you stop guarding
your story what will you regard? See what comes of hoarding.
Close your eyes for an instant in the fermenting fields of the South
and railroad tracks stream down the sides of your mouth.
Still, don’t the lines that brace your eyes when you smile proclaim, not grace
exactly as the train speeds, but a moment of no death in the face of the face.
No more gloomier monster … and scourge sent by the god’s wrath ever mounted from the black stygian water–flying things With young girl’s faces, but foul ooze below, Talons for hands, pale famished nightmare mouths.
She agreed to drop charges against her father, come
home. Imaginary charges, her mother said. But not
imaginary friends. They invited her. To Craigflower Bridge.
That’s a pretty name. A name that sings. I’ll buy a stuffed bear for my foster mother, she said. But first, a party.
Missy invited her. Down Reena’s arm a path
of needle marks. In and out
of foster homes. Three schools in one year. Ask
who molested her. At fourteen, she could not get clean in any bath. No more gloomier monster … and scourge sent by the god’s wrath.
Home sobbing. An ugly,
they called her at school. Bearded lady.
Her twelve-year-old body
heavy and large as a woman’s.
But then she got friends. They invited her.
The ones who set her hair blazing like fiery wings,
kicked her, burned cigarettes on her forehead, slammed her face
into a tree, broke both legs. Broke
her back. Nothing deadlier—see what dark brings— ever mounted from the black stygian water–flying things.
Flying rage? Were they all girls, enraged? No,
Warren was there. He lived with his father
in the trailer until his father left.
When Reena dragged herself across the bridge
(she still could walk) Warren followed. Was his blow
so fierce it left boot marks on her skull? No,
that was Kelly’s. Stay home Reena’s uncle said.
But she left to meet those girls, pretty ones all in a row with young girl’s faces, but foul ooze below.
Kelly cracked her skull. Who held Reena
under water? Let her up, one said. No, she deserves it. Why? Kelly asked when the judge
sentenced her. I didn’t kill her, I just beat her.
(Followed her, finished her off.) She muttered oaths.
No remorse, no goodbye?
No mourning? No ceremony or beating drums
or offerings from north or south? Talons for hands, pale famished nightmare mouths.
To the delicate girl who kept getting thinner—
thin as smoke from a cigarette,
a fault line in her green eyes.
To the young man
whose father slipped into his bed,
his fury trapped, a coiled cobra.
It was hot,
sun pounded windows that couldn’t open.
when one girl said to another. You wrote that? Wow.
To M who said, I can write about cutting,
but I don’t want to upset
Kids with piercings, scars, tattoos,
boys with tangled curls,
shaven-headed girls—the staff unlocked the doors
and marched you through.
Though the world had twisted,
like a chicken’s neck, your anger,
I believed, uncensored,
you could begin to discover who you were. You’re making me happy, D said.
You love poetry, don’t you?
D said one morning. Don’t come back
was the message the red-haired nurse
left on my phone that night. She was tired.
I made more work for her. How else explain
why she was annoyed each week I showed up. If she treats you that way,
the psychiatrist said, imagine how she treats the kids. Like wrecks that skid
when the brakes fail.
It was tough in that place
where nothing was savoured and No
was the word.
But you know that.
You whose words were rough and frail,
and so often out of favour.