Saturday Rumpus Poetry: Three Poems by Connie Voisine







to have fucked up
your day by my body in
those old pink sweatpants
that don’t fit and are stained
from a cooking accident
on the thighs. It’s my fault
I have not kept up the dye
job and my roots are dull,
gray and inching towards
the ends. This belly fat
is about 6 years old
now, and the spots are from
an aging situation I inherited
from all the pale ancestors
who only recently emerged
from the forests we were banished to
by history, poverty, an act of murder
(long ago) and other bad luck,
real and imagined. I know
I could try to be someone else,
like a person on TV, perhaps,
but the only shows I watch
are English these days and
about the unfortunate,
where actors have yellowish
teeth and red eyes. No wonder,
you’d say, and I am only ashamed
in some distant, uninvolved way.
It’s not personal, I’d say
about my body if
you and I were actually able to speak,
it’s more like a kind of darkness
or artichoke. I can imagine
your laugh if I’d said that.
It’s craziness, really, that part
I secretly feel I must kill to survive,
to call that after a vegetable
which is actually a variety of thistle,
(the roots are called suckers!).
If I could hold hands with you
on public transport,
beside the woman who smelled
different from any of my people,
the man who said mother-
fucker many times in various
places in one long sentence
into a phone, the strollered
and beribboned baby (pierced ears)
who twitched in her guileless
sleep, and what then if you could say
I am hateful and despairing,
and I’d console: we all are too?



No, Dog

The horse is a dreamscape
until I am riding the horse and then it’s
muscle and control and a being who really

doesn’t want to be me. There are dogs
who want to become a person. KoKo watches
me talk or eat or enter the room with a stare:

“tell me,” or “give me,” or “touch me,” much
the way my daughter could not stop being
with me for years, at the breast, in my arms

on my stomach and inside my bowels. Her
small hands on my face or in my shirt, fingers
in my hair and in my mouth. I did not ask

her to want me so much, I did not know
she would cry at night if she couldn’t feel
my skin or even if I left the room early

in the morning to sit alone. The child knows
I am the ladder of her, her face the skull
of all skulls and her teeth the first teeth to

split skin and rip open a plum so fiercely
we laugh as if it’s funny. The child hates
the grass, why would she like its scratch and

bump, why would that dry scramble of weed
belong to her foot, her flank, her tiny palms
the texture and size of an opossum’s, blindish

and twitching. Her first word is No. Her second
is Mine. She shoves the world into herself
the way the horse’s jaws maul and grind

the green. She pulls it out of me and dumps it
behind and she gallops out and through
some churning, unknown river to the other side.

The child is a dreamscape
until she wakes that first time, yelling.



Self Portrait as Sphinx

Full means dispose of myself,
that there are things like mountains,
disease, and geometry, older and bigger
than you but not me, asshole.

Listen is when the wind starts
the ominous purring in the trees,
the butter in the pan, and what I thought
the safety of these rocks.

Hole is my riddle and anxious
and why, the page read and re-, the web
that laces tree, clothesline, the jaws
of the dead, the ones yet to be consumed

by me. Parting is what I recognize
with pious humility. Or not. Shame is things
look dark tonight and a concluding speech
is what I would have given to my family.

Grove is all hearts and hands and where
I cannot live. I knew not where to find myself there.
Strewn is when you will take the brooches
from your dead wife’s breast.

Strewn is a finger in the soil, the seed
pressed through, too deep, anxious and why.
Shame is a rotten tooth. Strewn is me,
not human, not any one thing, who must

accept the awful answer. And who
were you? Some immigrant, some punk
with gorgeous hair and a temper. Blinds
also is knowledge that decimates.

Connie Voisine's most recent book is Calle Florista. She has had poems published in the New Yorker, Poetry, and elsewhere. She lives and works in New Mexico. More from this author →