Judy Ossello: The Last Poem I Loved, “Interrogation” by Sophie Cabot Black


“When you have me as I’m standing / Against a wall” ignites memories of intimacy that overcome the who, what, where, and when of relationships. Intense moments have a quality of sameness. You feel alive in that moment, not specific, and this poem offers some words where there are none. A good kiss has a color, a hue, a luminescence that “hangs like a valuable stone above us.”

Love can be quick and easy, especially without any social norms governing exactly how many poems you can love at one time. I’ve consistently loved “Interrogation” for the last 16 years.

It started in college. I had some money left on my bookstore grant so I decided to buy a few books of poetry. One of the books was The Misunderstanding of Nature by Sophie Cabot Black, which was published in 1994 and won the Norma Farber First Book Award that same year.

The combination of love and Heroin in “Interrogation” is so intense and true and well-written that I rarely read any of her other poems. “I lose words remembering to speak” and “my sex becomes / Suddenly agnostic” while their bodies are “becoming / Sentimental.”

I had never heard of Graywolf Press, which started their jacket copy with “Sophie Cabot Black is an unabashedly passionate poet.” In her author photo, Sophie is wearing these crazy long earrings and has some serious early 90’s hair attitude that reminds me of a cross between the movies Heathers and The Bad Seed. She knows exactly what she wants to say, and her honesty doesn’t waste words.

I’m one of those people who spends a lot of time in their head. I appreciate the moments when simple physical awareness commands attention, and my consciousness temporarily dwells in the immediate reality of the physical world. Interrogation captures this odd state with observations like “I keep thinking / You’re asking me something” until her eyes “start to empty too, become / Exactly like yours, until all there is / Is a heart, each beat rendering the last silent.”

Judy Ossello has a BA in Creative Writing from Denison University where she received the Danner Lee Mahood Fiction Award and Award for Feminist Creative Expression. She has decided to return to writing after over 10 years and was recently accepted to the 2010 Tin House Summer Writers Workshop in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared online in Eclectica Magazine, and she currently writes almost daily for www.writerloop.com. More from this author →