in which i did not dance with you; For Sedna
By: Emma Eisler
in which i did not dance with you
the most common causes of death for domestic venus flytrap:
-prodding the trap to open and close
-feeding it things besides flies
(things may include hamburger meat, small beads, strands of hair)
in the garden, i am girl-under-sun, i am watering-can-crawling-with-spiders.
[you have interpreted by now your absence from this place]
in the kitchen, now overgrown with moss, humid to keep the plants alive, insects that alight on
fatal leaves. for watering, I simply turn the tap of the sink, let the room flood with moisture.
my feet caked in dirt, weeds that wrap around my toes or burst through fertile skin.
i should’ve danced with you here
when you took my hand in one of yours, wrapped the other around my waist
should’ve shuffled my feet and let you lead me,
should’ve twirled again and again under your arm
i should’ve danced with you whether or not there was music playing
and even if our friends stood by the counter mixing cake batter
even as i was aware of the window over the sink that looked down on us
but i stayed stiff and still, a smiling laugh, a glance to the floor
you have to move your feet, you told me
[why couldn’t i then, even wanting to?]
i should’ve danced with you in every room and on the stairs – in the anatomy of our love, here is the body: a house now choked with pungent blooms, me, tentative, always
tentative; I tiptoed where I might’ve spun.
i do not feed the venus flytrap hamburger meat or small beads, but sometimes I think it asks me
to. smooth red inside its maw, it seems to prefer wasps to flies. i resist the urge to touch a finger
to its pink tongue, let it suck pinpricks of my blood like milk. why is it then what we crave is so
much greater than our own capacity?
[in which i ask for love in a body devoid of gesture]
the fly flitters again and again into the trap. still, the greedy plant begins to devour itself.
AT THIS LOCATION:
desire is worn as consumption. this love is felt in the stomach.
My dear, beneath the waves
How from the land of the dead, and the bleeding stumps of your hands and ice in your chest
Please tell me
i have been very cold
my fingers leaving traces of frost on the desk
windows fogged over with stale breath
there was a boy who coaxed orchids to grow from my ribs
bud and bloom, how much it hurts, I thought, to grow
and then wither
Let me brush your hair, Queen Sedna, let me appease your dog with a bite of my flesh
If we’d fallen from your father’s boat together, I would have tied a tourniquet over your wrist
Held you to me in the electric kiss of jellyfish
how do I write about pain?
You whose severed fingers created the corals and the whales,
Your blood, seal bark and dolphin call
Sedna in your arctic ocean, waves and slough
i am holding my breath as you call the hunters
Emma Eisler is a junior English major at Cornell University with a concentration in poetry. She is a poetry editor at Storm of Blue Press and editor in chief of the university magazine, Kitsch, as well as a columnist for the Cornell Sun. She is a recipient of the Cornell University Dorothy Sugarman Undergraduate Prize for poetry and plans to continue pursuing a career in writing after she graduates.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press: How long have you been writing poetry?
I can’t remember a time before I wrote poetry. Even before I could read, I would dictate lines to my mom for her to type out. When I spoke aloud as a child, I was tentative and shy, but on paper I overflowed. I became more serious about my poetry as a teenager while attending Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco as a student in the creative writing department. I began to feel then that writing was the part of myself I most wanted to share with others or, in some small way, to give to the world. This has remained true throughout college. CNP:
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Growing up, my dad would read to me from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. These memories are so precious to me; his copy of the book, gifted to him by my mom, always has a place of honor on my shelf. The first poetry book that felt completely like mine, though, was Chinese Apples by W.S. Di Piero. At ten, I would reread “Easter Service” over and over, not fully able to understand the words but moved by the cadences, the way each line seemed to roll over me like a wave, tugging me towards a sea of longing.
CNP: Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Some of my favorite poetry collections right now are Postcolonial Love Poem and When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz, as well as Facts About the Moon by Dorianne Laux, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen, Seeing the Body by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Loba by Diane di Prima. I also love the poetry of Maggie Nelson and Mahmoud Darwish. I reread “God is an American” by Terrance Hayes almost every day. CNP: Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you inthe zone?
I like to make playlists based on what kind of writing or project I’m working on. When I’m really immersed in a poem, I’ll often wake in the middle of the night with ideas or have to take a break from taking lecture notes in class to compose a new stanza. For me, inspiration rarely seems to come at convenient times, so I try to strike a balance between putting time aside where I will work on my poetry no matter what—even if it feels difficult or frustrating—and being ready for the random moments where I suddenly need to write and each line flows easily. CNP: How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
When I started writing seriously, I was primarily focused on fiction, so a lot of my poetry occupies a space between poetry and prose. I am interested in poems that contain multiple through-lines or conflicting versions of a voice or experience, so I often find myself writing poems that appear fragmented on the page. Sometimes before beginning, I plan exactly the structure I will use and create a kind of internal language for which pieces of the poem will be oriented to which part of the page. More often though, these forms come to me as I write or in images I see behind closed eyes when I imagine what I want to express. CNP: Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
I think it’s important to read broadly, particularly looking at poetry that is doing or conveying something different from what you plan to do. This helps expand your perspective on what poetry can be and allows new kinds of inspiration to filter in. I also think it’s important to try not to second guess too much as you start writing and to trust the ideas that are coming to you and to just put something down, even if you end up only liking or using a single line of it later.
What is your editing process like?
I try to read what I’ve written in multiple formats—on my laptop, printed out, aloud, and even on my phone—because each way of looking at the poem helps me notice different things I’d like to change or refine in future drafts. I also try to get feedback from people I trust and to practice sharing my writing so that I don’t feel like I’m creating in a vacuum and am continuously exposed to new ideas. CNP: When do you know that a poem is finished?
I don’t know if I ever do. I think when I’ve read the poem many times in multiple formats and received and implemented comments from other people, I at least feel close to done, but probably if I looked back six months or a year later, I would still notice more changes I want to make or directions for the poem to go. For me, this is a really beautiful thing. Just as I will always be growing and changing, my writing is (I hope) equally alive and capable of growth.