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The God Is Fragments

Susana Roberts





          i.

God won’t save you, or war, or dying. Chance won’t, the stone in the river, someone’s sidelong glance. Bread

won’t save you, or church. Envy and desire. The new-paved road. Sun on your back won’t save you, and especially not

love. You’re on your own—that’s what I learned. That’s what’s been bred into me, the musk I give off. No one

saves you, and nothing. Not music. Not hope. Not the morning bird or the child’s smooth hand in yours. Not

the river or the tides, the lonely walk home to the empty house. Full plate, empty plate, the angel on your shoulder won’t

save you, can’t, won’t, would rather not. You’re on your own, kid. Keep walking. Keep walking. Right into the ever-clear nigh.




          ii.

I have had a Terror I could tell
To no one.


          —Cynthia Cruz


What about history, then? Those three tin pans hanging on a nail,
the shepherd’s rag wool pouch and staff against the
          wall—remember
the heavy stones we had to shift to plow? How it made you crazy
with grief, corn rotting on its slender stalks? You had to kill
the chickens and cow, the sway-backed horse, finally.

What a winter. I cannot be delicate about this: how the men took
          you
into the barn and rammed themselves up your ass. How you cried
and sweated, how you learned to greet it like a lover. Then you
          planted
it beneath the unearthed stones where it vibrates still.
                                                                                   Dear Father,
let it go. Let us go.




          iii.

How many trees have died this year I’d rather not know but I do.
I pay attention to this disease.

It’s hard not to feel it along my bloodlines, and if you don’t you’re
a lucky bugger.

Once there was a song I could sing around sorrow, pass it like
          waves
cutting the cliff.

I used to think you couldn’t lose the sky, but you can—lose the
          black
and blue.

Live like a burr on the wolf’s hide.




          iv.

There’s nothing beautiful about this. Let’s get it straight:
My body is unholy, neglected, sore from use. How nice

To step out of the unclean skin, my bones striding forward
With a sharp, even purpose.

If you think there’s no reason to be lonely you’re a bigger
Fool than me.




          v.

[Argument in a Lifeboat]

When the fly lands on your plate, do you still eat?

          If you closed the goddamn window, they wouldn’t get in.

But I like fresh air.

          That’s not poetry, you say. It’s statement.

I don’t give a shit about poetry.

          Cut me a piece of that feta, will you?
          Where’s the jug? That new wine?

You’re going to tell me to get rid of ‘you say’.

          Peace and love, peace and love: Ringo Starr

Now you’re bullshitting.

          Yes. As usual. Don’t you figure I’m going off the rails at some
          point? Hear my jolly, jolly laugh?

So full of shit.

          Feel the weight of my pen on your chest
          carving out its blue signal?
          Think I can’t make art from your body?

Now some beautiful sardonic image to pull it all together.

          Probably.                                [Significant pause]
          Let’s just sit and watch the rain.

You bastard.





          vi.

The buses run up and down Mass. Ave. No strings,
Just tired old drivers with feet on wide pedals.

It hasn’t rained in weeks and no one minds but me;
The pansies are wizened and cowed. All the wonder

Has bled into the arid spaces they ring. No strings,
But heavy steel cables running across the wide street.

The waiter brings me baklava wrapped in foil, the sun
Casts a slant haze across the depot. Someone’s cleaned

The floor to ceiling glass. Not a streak. There’s a pounding
In my head (shake, shake shake shake; can anything

Be done right)? The bill’s $17.50 and I only have a ten.
It’s been that kind of day.




          vii.

[sung to the tune of]

There’s no real use in it:
Don’t love me, honey.

I’m ordinary as a hammer,
Lazy as a worn out sock.

My first name is mud pie,
My second name is knife.




          viii.

How do you tell the secret of the grandmother
darning her worn stockings again, stewpot
boiling its sad meat?

Of the grandfather, home from the trenches,
singing his sorrow in a jug every day for 50 years?
What of the four

daughters, their bodies wet as seals, coming
from the river where they learned to swim,
bounding in the back door

to stricken silence? Of the man’s garden—phlox
and foxglove, pink larkspur, six kind of daisy,
a row of lavender,

a hand-hewn border fence? More tenderness
in that garden than in his kitchen, his shared
bed. What then of that

youngest daughter with the crooked eye who wept
so long over his body she had to be pulled away,
how she stood

fixed by need; mouse-woman, dust-woman, and of how
she bred it into her four daughters? What of the one
who’s writing this

now, her aging body, sadness worn like a shawl, her empty
womb, her empty bed? What gets written in stone,
marking the graves across three states,

some shaded, the rest
open to the full sun?


Susana Roberts
is a senior lecturer in the English Department at Boston College. Her poems have been published most recently in Redivider, caesura, and The Mississippi Review, and her collection, Zeus's Daughter, was a finalist for the 2007 Levis Poetry Prize at Four Way Books. She co-directs the Brookline Poetry Series.