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Contributor Notes




Sarah Rose Nordgren

Sarah Rose Nordgren




Fable

 

I pull myself from the water by my hair

Shake the leaves out of sleep

When garage-entombed at night

I perch on a child’s bicycle

Wearing mother’s nightgown

Frayed lace through winter

Growing back to perfection

I am the oldest daughter in the story

The one whose shoes floated downstream

Who baked bread in an underground oven

The dark jealous girl walking

Barefoot before the king

So far north now and west of Helsinki

I make my nest and lie in it

Run furrows with my fingers in cold so close

It doesn’t feel like weather

 

 

 

 

Instructions for Marriage by Service

 

Surely she’s worth seven years,

the black girl who hangs

 

in the corner like a dress,

insisting on silence

 

with her rose-bud eyes. I drink

from the family cup

 

solemnly while she dances

a ghost dance with herself.

 

O fertile is that field and ripe.

I earn my keep by keeping

 

my head down like a boxer

or an ox. Balanced

 

on my ladder-rung between

those I must obey and she

 

who hides a tiny spider in her

skirt-folds. I earn her

 

a little each day like

a dropper full of wine. Let her

 

damned sister dance in green

stockings. Let funerals follow

 

us like dogs on the road.

And let her be worthy

 

of the sweat I’ll spill over her

for years to come.

 

 

 

 

Remarks on the Morning’s Work in Winter

 

One hour alone is worth two after your master

has risen. The streetlamps, bright

 

and silent in the snow, stalk

your private movements. Rise early,

 

for the mornings are shorter now, and perform

your dirtiest tasks first.

 

Scrub the hearth-grates, followed by your own

body, with a stiff brush. Slippers

or light shoes will ensure you glide between

 

rooms like your grandfather’s ghost.

You may be required to kindle

 

three or four fires before daybreak,

but their warmth is not for you.

 

Clean the forks in a keg of sand and straw

till they glint like teeth. Hold the lady’s

 

white shoe in your hands like a living dove:

Caress it with egg-whites and milk.

 

You may find that the quiet, as it bleeds

in through the window frames

and from beneath closed doors behind which

 

people are dreaming, deceives you into

believing, for whole moments, that

 

you are a part of this home: That the space

on the floor where you kneel

 

polishing brass handles was exactly measured

for the width of your shoulders,


pelvis, and knees. The dark mahogany

of your skin blending perfectly with

the other furniture.

 

 

 

 

Charmed

 

When I finally emerge from my rickety,

wooden house, the light has already moved on.

This makes my image soft

on the doorstep as I slip my kid gloves

over my fingers one by one.

From here I look down through

the constellations circulating as if in cream.

The wren and nuthatch lift my skirt hem

from the mud and I’m ready

to descend. There is a machine

that delivers me from here to there

with expediency and care. Anything I wish for

it places in my hand miraculously.

Its voice is the voice of one hundred hounds

singing noel, and its arms are the bleeding

arms of trees. I do my shopping

with pleasure, and my hat gives a little nod

to the other hats, and my knees curtsy

to the knees. All the dainties

are whisked away into a linen sack

for later. As evening falls the streets empty

and windows, like one hundred movie screens,

begin to glow. A young boy follows me

through the lanes at twenty paces, ringing

his bell so I never feel alone.

 

 

 

 

Calendar

 

If I wait long enough

between the rusted trees

where young mothers take their sons walking

I know they will

airlift in the crates of books.

There will be Proust and Flaubert,

the Russians, ancient religious texts,

and from Poland a calendar

of gourds. I imagine myself turning over

the pages:

 

each page a picture each picture a ripe or carved out womb

with a lighted candle each page a month I will burn through.

 

I envy the boy holding

his mother’s hand in the woods. 

 

I have a body made hard by work

in other people’s homes.

A curve. A crooked

jaw. Pockets full of moths.

Gray beard. I don’t want

children, no, I want to be a child.

 

If you look for a new house

you must consider

the previous tenants, the price.

My head used to have so much space in it,

a sky with white birds darting

like shooting stars.

Now I’m more like a machine: furniture

bolted to the floor. But

 

my mother.

                       But an old man.

I became an old man so early. 

 

 

 

 

The Artist’s Boy

 

The sofa rises like a horse

from its side in the yellow room.

Wood-smoke and ink saturate air,

obscuring, dividing shape

from shape. One could fade

into the scenery near the glow

of his floating hair, this

perfect baby. Somewhere,

rain slicks up Main Street,

and a man bicycles home

in a navy coat, pushing his hat

into the gray. His whiskers are

damp as a dog’s. Flowers tornado

to pavement as he whirs past—

coming from, going to,

a certain place. The child

wishes a room into existence

and it’s there. Walls yellow, furniture

warm as a mare. Somehow,

when you see him all nervousness

subsides. Little mouth blowing

on your cheek, those eyes

that seem but painted on his eyes.

 

 

 

 

Ophelia

 

In dreams, a writing tablet signifies a woman, since it receives

the imprint of all kinds of letters.      -Artemidorus

 

 

I resisted the story so long and thus

believed, unconsciously, its opposite—

 

a mirror of what I hated, which was

no better you see. Flesh and hair

 

so ghostly you could read the veins.

I dredged the pond till my joints

 

gave my bones away. Just a few

sticks composed in the muck,

 

sheltering a school of fish. Now,

I thought, at least I can be useful.

 

If you have a voice, don’t

waste it on opinions. Let the evening

 

audience find you each time as if

by chance. First, a swath of matted

 

hair, and then the rest: a foal

propped up and hesitant.