Home PageArchivesVolume no. 6Issue 1Poetry: Kerri Webster

Swan/Not Swan

by Kerri Webster


Girl in the wilderness, what does she know?
Gray dress bought for how it looks
you have heard this story before.
Oh we are sorely fugitive and lapsed
from our better selves.
If we are pretty ghosts, hammered in—
scraped out and sob in cars, I want
to sleep and sleep.
The leaves sprouting over my breasts, the tongue
pushing them away—
in the dark I am not the dark.
In the quiet I am not the quiet
violence of snow.
Pheromones from heartbreak only cashier-men
can smell: they touch
too much my hands.
A woman’s no amphora.
Honey I am no gazelle, am not into pony play, am
investigating mercy—
what comes after we hurt each other.
In this season of lost light, I am walking
out of wilderness, a goddamned
lady Ishmael. I loved a broken man, his fear-soul
rubbing off on my skin until
I did not know myself. As heel
is kin to its homonym, I go submissive
all October. What sleeps in the trees
chirps horribly along my spine as I,
kneeling, say: You darlings built of dread
and skin, who will build my sensory-
deprivation chamber now?
Having come to a topoi where more’s wanted
than suffer-flutter/suffer-thud;
immured in flesh;
nearing wet bulb temperature—
light gathers itself into pins.
I turn my violence into shapes:
a man, a swan, an alphabet: and see
how, in the beginning, the world was phosphorous
and singed our fur. I sent him
back to her, and now
I live on this planet made of sorrow
where the boy shoots the swan, opens
a portal in its chest which his
soul enters and enters and enters
again. Girl in the wilderness, what does she know?
How mean means both cruel and small.
What comes after we hurt each other is,
we hurt each other more?
Cylinders of cold line this house
and I cannot get warm.
My man had antlers crowding the walls.
The actual worship-space was very small.
Mostly I practiced survival skills
and waited for the end, though too I came
in waves among the beasts—
so much watching from empty sockets.
What comes after we hurt each other?
It gets really quiet.
I do or do not get out of bed.
Like birds there comes an astonishment of
Light slams into snow.




by Kerri Webster


Say the terrain. Somewhere between Exclusion
Zone and Asphodel Meadows. Drop-
dead gorgeous.
Through mourning we came to believe
in transformation—the way Tiresias
was blind, then dead, then seven years a woman.
An Aunty said:
Now everything is changing, even the trees, you can see changes
in them, even the fruits, like before, we haven’t had mango season.

And indeed we had not had mango season
in a long goddamned time.
And indeed we turned around and where
spiky mountains loomed now loomed
vast fields of air.
And indeed you too can be seven years a woman.
And indeed I sent my lover away.
And indeed the last Pyrenean Ibex vanished and you, you
didn’t even notice, nor did I notice, for I
was busy being penetrated by a sorrowed man.
And indeed the lamp’s burnt out.
And indeed somebody’s in a casket across town and I
am avoiding the viewing.
Whoever said I was brave?
Nobody said is who.
Her name was Celia.
The ibexes’ name was Celia.

I stay where I am because other places frighten me.
Where the rivers come together in ghost-flowered banks,
only Tiresias thinks clearly.
What kind of blessing is that?
Man-sorrow made me an idiot.
I looked down and the wilderness had othered
into wildfire. And we read the signs—yesiree—we
what good is divination?
“Some languages may specialize in melancholy, or seaweed, or
atomic structure, or religious ritual.”
They took Celia’s cells and made
another Celia, but New Celia’s little lungs
would not bellow and unbellow properly.
I am weeping for New Celia.
I am shedding cognitive dissonance like a veil
made of rain.
In the smokeshapes, Tireiasias divined burning fleets,
ghost leviathans, stadiums
filled with wandering shades, and abandoned towns
with Radioactive Wolves, which is also the name
of an excellent documentary.


kerri webster photo
Kerri Webster is the author of “Grand & Arsenal” (Iowa 2012) and “We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone” (Georgia 2005). Poems have recently appeared in Better, Anthropoid, and At Length. She currently lives in Idaho.

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