3 posts tagged catie rosemurgy
To give the people a break
from repositioning their lawn chairs.
To give us a glimpse
of life without bugs. Without weeping welts,
the odd fever, and yellow smears on our shoes.
To confuse the boys.
To force them to ask, “Why do teenage girls
smoke outside in January until
their nipples get stiff? Why do they
stand around with their coats undone and life
smacked onto their cheeks?
Am I that promising?”
To caution the men
that the boys will turn into
against following their semi-aroused girlfriends
into May lake water. Seasonal Affective Disorder.
To break up lonely highways
into manageable chunks. To make it clear
just how stupid it is to climb
the highest mountain. To encourage sweet futilities
like cuddling and mittens. The powerful
sleep lobby. To give drunks a softer, deeper
alternative to liver failure. Blue lips
and frosted eyelashes. Ski pants,
for Christ’s sake. Dark roads, tight sweaters,
no boots, and stalled cars. Wanna ride,
need a lift? Country love or homespun
complex legal issues. His word pressed
firmly against her word. Zero degrees
and fourteen snowmobilers missing.
Natural selection. Two feet of fodder
for made-for-TV movies and more expected.
No fiber, calories, vitamins, hallucinogenic
properties, or nicotine without the tar. Just pain
in your membranes, unexpected falls,
sprained ankles, and hyperextended
thumbs. To see if you can
catch yourself. To put you down. You thought
you were mean and hard to figure out until
you found out about windchill.
To give us a way to understand
people who won’t give us sex,
meter maids, Siamese cats, what it’s like to kiss
your best friend’s lover. To distinguish the sweat of euphoria
from the sweat of shock. To up the ante.
Because he could. Because he’s lonely and it leaked
out of him. Because he wants attention
and a fluffy blanket that’s big enough to cover his toes
and reach his chin. To create melting. To give us
another hint that the body is dead.
To add ice. To let him come as close as he can
to holding some of the glittering water he made.
To let us skate where we couldn’t two weeks ago.
To let us glide on top of darkness.
To show us what it means to break through.
The cold winter can seem like one mind-numbing, body-numbing thing after another, a list of complaints—like this poem, a list of excuses for the cold. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or “sweet futilities/like cuddling and mittens.” Sweet futilities. Nice try. There is nothing to protect you from the cold but your own hope.
The cold, like life in your late twenties and early thirties, can start to numb you so much, pummel you so much that you can barely see. Why did God invent the cold? “To put you down. You thought/you were mean and hard to figure out until/you found out about windchill.” The cold sting of life humbles you, brings tears like welts to your eyes.
So maybe you up the ante, like this poem does. Maybe you try to find out “what it’s like to kiss/your best friend’s lover”—but you are just trying to feel something. You are trying “To distinguish the sweat of euphoria/from the sweat of shock.” You just want to stop being so numb.
But that numbness will end. Like winter, like cold, it must end. Why did God invent the cold? “To let us glide on top of darkness./To show us what it means to break through.” Soon, soon, we will break through.
I’ve been thinking about what love is for.
Not the obvious part where he gathers
until he is as purposeful inside her
as an electrical storm, not when he breaks
into a thanks so bright it leaves her
split like a tree. (We all jolt back,
our picnic ten shades lighter, our hands
clapped over awe that’s too big for our mouths.)
But the two of them, afterwards,
tasting the electricity, nibbling
the charge on the ions. When her pulse
has already risked coming to meet him
at the window of her skin. When what is left
of his body still feels huge, and he sits draped
in his fine, long coat of animal muscles
but uses all his strength to be almost imperceptible.
They curl up, make their bodies the same size,
draw promises in one another’s juices.
“You,” they say. I love it when they say that.
Would that they could give a solid reason.
Sometimes they even refuse to try.
They make jokes while cinching their laces.
“I’ll call soon,” he says. “You’re so sweet,”
she says, but the rank sugar of his breath
doesn’t summarize the world for her.
“Not you,” they say.
And nothing bad has happened.
They just turn the doorknob that has been
shining in their hands the whole time, walk out,
and continue to die. Same as the rest of us.
So maybe love is a form of crying. Or maybe
it’s our way of finishing what the leaves have started
and turning a brilliant color before we hit the ground.
Name one living thing that doesn’t somehow bloom.
None of them get to choose the right conditions.
Think of chemical fires or ghost orchids.
Maybe one body is simply insufficient.
So they change their minds and decide
to stand by one another’s side for years.
They bring flowers and carpet and children
into the act. They refuse to move, ever.
They act as if they’ve found the only hospitable
spot on earth. I love it when they do that.
No poet has made me think harder about love than Catie Rosemurgy. In her “Miss Peach Gets Lucky”—which is a poem about Miss Peach dating a werewolf whose mouth she climbs into—the speaker says, “Love is a fancy name/for giving someone without fangs the power to kill you.” Here, the speaker says, “So maybe love is a form of crying.”
There are some powerful metaphors here, especially about sex and the intimate coupling of our bodies as a lightning storm. The charge of skin-to-skin contact is palpable: “When her pulse/has already risked coming to meet him/at the window of her skin.” But then the coupling doesn’t seem to work out: “the rank sugar of his breath/doesn’t summarize the world for her.” I love that.
The poem could’ve stopped there. But it continues. In this poem, the two people change their minds, decide to stay together: “They refuse to move, ever./They act as if they’ve found the only hospitable/spot on earth.” I love that the speaker is almost an omniscient god, watching this from afar, from above, saying, “I love it when they do that”—or, earlier: “I love it when they say that.” Is this amusement? Or is this earnest appreciation of the couple? I think it’s both.
You can plant your feet as hard as you can, you can build your body and your life as strong and hard as a steel building, but your life can still collapse like a plane full of fuel crashing into the building or an earthquake shaking and collapsing the very ground you’ve planted your feet on. The only thing that seems sure is that we have no control: “Name one living thing that doesn’t somehow bloom./None of them get to choose the right conditions.” We will change and we will bloom—bloom!—despite the change.
“I’ve been thinking about what love is for,” the speaker says in the first line. I’ve been thinking about that, too.
So I had a date with this werewolf. I said I’d give him
a Tuesday dinner slot if he got all his tangles out. After all that
conditioner, he did feel greasy,
but no worse than your average guy
by late Sunday afternoon. And we’re supposed to feel sorry
for the frothing one. He’s a bleeding wild flower,
a sock that would scratch you raw and doesn’t even have a match.
He’s got basic desires that lack a corresponding orifice.
And we’re a kind people.
We thank our monsters for letting us invent them. They let us feel dignified
and unsutured by comparison. They’re the parts of ourselves
we pity only when they’re covered in fur, the parts
that never married, never caught a whiff
of their own species, never got out of the house without
severing some plump limb.
So I could’ve stayed home, but what is the heart
without a few sharp knives around?
I did take precautions. My dress looked as unlike a steak
or any sort of first-degree murder as possible, which meant, of course,
I was swirled like a cupcake.
I climbed into his mouth
not long after we set down to eat. The tables of people
looked like loose animals
through the bars of his teeth.
I didn’t say anything, I wanted to spare his feelings,
but I was disappointed when it didn’t hurt.
So now I work for him. My job is to have flesh,
and I’m fairly good at it. He’s president
of not ripping my head off. What worthwhile lover
couldn’t, though? Love is a fancy name
for giving someone without fangs the power to kill you.
In our bed I lie next to him and his spasmodic changes.
Our bed is a darkness in which we feel
instead of see the stars.
When I hear the fsssssst of his tiny hairs parting
and the wet rip of his claws starting to grow, I think, Hey,
which is sharper, teeth or lies,
teeth or lies, baby? The scary monster
is the back of the head, the face you thought you knew, gone,
turned away. Scream all you want to.
How many satisfying meals turn out to be poisonous?
When we love something, isn’t it as if we have grown hands
especially to hold it? What have we ever touched
and not had to watch turn ugly
by the light of some sort of moon?
I have a friend who dropped out of graduate school (MFA) for a million reasons I couldn’t presume to explain, but I do know she wanted to write beautiful, crazy poems like Catie Rosemurgy—in her own way. She used to tell me about reading Catie Rosemurgy’s (I can’t bear to call the author “Rosemurgy” because it’s so impersonal, and though we’ve never met, we are now personal to each other, the poet and the reader—so a full name will have to intimate the paradoxal boundaries of our relationship) persona poems about Miss Peach, and I don’t think I’d ever heard anything like them. The back of The Stranger Manual—which this poem is from—says Miss Peach is “an unpredictable, cartoonish shapeshifter, who emerges onto the page dragging the myth of the individual, various gender scripts, and the grand tradition of the poetic persona with her.” And I guess that’s about right.
How absurd is this poem? Very. “Miss Peach Gets Lucky” is insane and beautiful and somehow makes a metaphor about a werewolf work harder to talk about the monsters we create, the pain of love, and sex, sex, sex. Usually the words “heart” and “love” would make me cringe, but not here. Not when Miss Peach is getting lucky with a werewolf with tangles in his hair and only greasy conditioner as a fix. Not when she says, “I climbed into his mouth/not long after we set down to eat.” Somehow “love” and the “heart” don’t seem such big concepts; somehow they become only as real as that werewolf is. As Miss Peach asks, “What have we ever touched/and not had to watch turn ugly/by the light of some sort of moon?”
Does this make sense? I don’t know. If love exists as more than a concept, though, I love this poem.