Rumpus Original Poetry: Four Poems by Diane Seuss





[That bar, World of the Satisfyin Place, cream-colored sign with bullet holes. Bullet holes]


That bar, World of the Satisfyin Place, cream-colored sign with bullet holes. Bullet holes

in the back end of Villaneuve’s gold Lincoln, he was still getting residuals from his stint

as the keyboardist for the Shondelles, died young of Hep C, that was a cold blow. I fed him

pickles from a jar in his car and bled on the seat. State Line Supermarket burned. I sat

on an upended crate and ate pickles hot from the fire with the owner’s daughter. She was

giddy as people get when their lives go up in smoke. Her big eyes gleamed as they did

when she played Maria in The Sound of Music. I was Gretl, knocked unconscious by Friedrich

during the thunderstorm scene. Drive-in movie screen burned, I stood and watched, hands

on my hips. Tragic spectacle my realm. I its ruthless queen. Elvis died hard that day, burned

alive on a Ferris wheel with a smile on his face. My first thrill at the hands of another was when Twin sat on the small of my back and gave me a massage. This was before the white Jesus

kids got to her. Made her quit dancing, eating cheeseburgers. Snapped her glasses in half

and said if God wanted her to see he’d heal her eyes. Her hands were strong. Fingers long.

I didn’t have a word for that baroque pleasure, but I knew better than to thank her.


[He came to us all the way down here with us he trod the narrow]


He came to us all the way down here with us he trod the narrow

path to us he harrowed us he robbed us of our stuff and then he

bade us to adore the very robber who had robbed us of ourselves

he swept his empty hand across our shelves he commandeered

our dust he loosed the goats rejoined the milky mothers to their

calves he cut our drooping fruits in halves infringed upon our lust

he mesmerized the feral cats and charmed them from the pee-marked

corners of the barn into godawful light he strode across our ashes

and our blight the fields we’d burned to rid ourselves of parasitic

worms and ticks he snared our seeds and jarred our feeble bees

he gathered up our kids the ones who squeezed their dirty feet into

ill-begotten shoes the brood of meth and Thunderbird whose amniotic

sacs were tinted blue he harrowed us unbarrowed us he sparrowed us

and nailed us then he jacked our 7-Eleven and he hauled us up to heaven


[My private parts are many, my teeth are private, my tongue, the buoy]


My private parts are many, my teeth are private, my tongue, the buoy

of my brain bobbing in its cloistered sea, my eye’s vitreous detachment,

the lightning that crackled when the membrane broke inside my eye, I

was at a K-Mart roving among female sanitary products, each in its private

firing chamber, and a flock of crows rose in my vision and never since

has found a branch to land on, the flock’s voice private, my own voice box’s

wet surreptitious lid opens to the jewelry box ballerina who keeps my tune

whirling, and what is beneath her gauze skirt is private, and the hole in the crotch

of my pants, and my memory of the bloodstain on the crotch of the yoga

teacher’s sleek leggings private, my viscera, as if some scalpel could penetrate

me, some x-ray could make my fractures glow, my first love was not a football

player who wiped my tears with his dirty sock, who grew into a fireman

and fell through the roof, my first love was a phallus of cheap perfume,

a small black bottle from the mall, a clandestine phallus called femme fatale


[My favorite scent is my own funk, my least favorite scent, other]


My favorite scent is my own funk, my least favorite scent, other

people’s funk, and this, my friends, is why we cannot have nice

things. I value the advice I give others but I don’t like the advice

that comes my way unless it reflects what I would have done anyway.

You know how it goes. I like how my voice sounds in the car

when I sing along with Earth Wind & Fire but no one else can

pull it off, no one. My bad acting, when I acted, was charming.

I intended it to be bad, as a comment on the state of theater

in the 20th century. On days I don’t have to see anyone I don’t brush

my hair, I don’t wear underwear or shoes or chemical potions meant

to extinguish my funk, and in these times, I am nearly perfectly happy.

If you’re me, it’s luxurious to go unobserved. When asked the inevitable

question, whether I’d wear eyeliner if I was the last person on earth,

no, hell no. Eyeliner is war. When I’m alone I lay my weapons down.

Diane Seuss’s most recent collection, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, was released in May 2018 by Graywolf Press. Four-Legged Girl, published in 2015 by Graywolf Press, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open won the Juniper Prize and was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2010. Her poetry has appeared in a broad range of literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and the New Yorker. She was raised in rural Michigan, which she continues to call home. More from this author →