FRENCH 75; MERCY; NEW AMSTERDAM
By: Sarah Beth Spraggins
I wore a short blue dress to the birthday.
Outside Autumn was perilously descending into something else.
Winter is not the right word.
We scroll away faces like advertisements.
Darkness shudders when I am in my room.
Curtains drawn against early night.
My grey coat a crumpled heap on the ground.
The last listening ear a disturbance.
The gin piled up in my system.
Your voice clasping said: we can see each other this week.
Like a damp leaf I clung to it moving across
The karaoke screen in thick black letters.
You were fast asleep in Gramercy.
Dark rain was pushing leaves from the trees.
In the aripiprazole night
Feet frozen under covers
Alone and put out
By this pathetic disease
I am reminded that my grandfather
Also a depressive
Didn’t change his sheets
For four whole months.
Sweet slow Auburn.
I can smell the tobacco
On his shirts.
I can smell the Alabama.
Those juicy white gardenia
Flowers covered with ants.
I am frankly possessed
By my body
Weak and dangled like a cigarette.
A cigarette is like a bone.
Getting in the shower
It scalds then freezes.
Some kind of golden flood.
It is remembering there’s a whole
Flickering city out there.
Parks and stuff. This is the way
I would describe it.
Somewhere along the line
You were touched by mercy
Deep into another summer there was a different
set of bars I’d pass on my way home. Signs
glowing red on the water. Men in light jackets
laughing with women. It pleased me to see
so many people taking the time to be happy
and drunk on a Tuesday only because their
lives bloomed heavy and bright beneath them.
I seemed to understand, even at twenty,
though of course I still wonder about it now
that this was not a choice. Why not pause
in the apricot air? Has anyone ever had an
answer? In New York, my body is
betraying me again. The little knot wound
around my sternum will not unwind. Thoughts
of water lilies floating like upturned bowls
jolt me out a little. There are those who
have loved me without me knowing.
But I am not a humanist nor do I believe
in the divinity of flowers. All my life has
been a yellow circle drawn around a dark dot.
The slippage. The endless weakness.
Peel me apart and find it. Rip it out.
I’ve decided to be done with it.
And send me reeling like a stone into water.
Sarah Beth Spraggins received her BA from Wheaton College and is an MFA Candidate at Columbia University. She has a poem forthcoming in Image Journal. She lives in Manhattan.