Cathexis Northwest Press
What Matters; February, South Side
By: MK Sturdevant
I dreamed you were very old, and you could not shut a window,
so I did it. The air outside spoke a foreign language
but all we could hear then
were the consonants.
I dreamed we were very young. You took me to a show
but you only looked at my eyes and not the band.
We consumed the song while we stared,
irises flaring in the dark.
I dreamed we were both old, and I said: you’re still alive?
And you laughed so hard that I knew
the answer was yes. I said,
go back to sleep. But you would not do so.
You pulled me into your bed,
where it became clear that there is neither young nor old
nor any time. We have no time, because there is nothing to have.
Only our bodies felt a draft of cold air, where
a window had been opened again.
And we formed
the vowels with our mouths,
and were amazed. And we found that there is only
Body, nothing more. Only skin will remember that song.
February, South Side
Now there is no shape to the sky
and there is no distinction between gray and dark,
light or not.
There is only a question spread wide, a soft cover,
pulled far to the east horizon
and tucked in all the way west.
Under it, we pull our coats over our chest,
while the wind queries over and over again.
We quicken our steps,
the bare branches are brittle today.
We know the answer, but we look for it everywhere,
this thing that bodies grasp, but minds do not.
MK Sturdevant's work has appeared in Orion, Flyway, Alluvian, Newfound, Slag Glass City, Kestrel and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Minerva Rising. She was listed in the Top 25 Emerging Writers with Glimmer Train Press twice in 2017. She lives and works in the Chicago area.
"When composing ‘February, South Side’ and ‘What Matters,’ I had been thinking about the way memory operates in the body, often without “us,” and always imperfectly. It wasn’t just about memory but about desire, another material operative, that does its work and knows its own truth often against “our” own will. That is to say, whoever I am, my waking perception of myself, I, “Molly,” am often amazed at how the smell of something, or the feel of a particular season, can remind me of things I used to know or feel. If I remember it in that moment, then, it was always in or with me. It had been in me all along, just waiting for that particular smell of Assam tea brewing, or just waiting for the wet snow to become mud— that subtle, familiar, Midwestern smell. This is an important point: it required body. Flesh. In those examples nostrils, to get to the memory. We could say that my body has far more ways of being cognizant of my own life than “I” do.
Desire is also a material thing, but maybe even trickier. I “Molly” might deny that I desire something, might be critical of that desire, might aim to reframe it, deny it, try to replace it with some other desire. And yet. And yet, bodies (plural), things over which we have limited knowledge and control, conspire against us, don’t care about intangible boundaries (not just so-called morals, but concepts like time and age), and are very clear about they want to do.
This pair of poems was an experiment in letting bodies, dream life, instinct, and memory take precedence over everything “I” think I know."