ISEULT SALTS (the WOUND)
Apart, stars arc past, awash,
as vast black yawns and
swarms a sandman.
Abstract tasks attract angst.
A man rasps “Alas” as
alarms clap, call, trash-talk,
thrash brass bands. Small
spasms snarl, snag.
That wan Sabbath lamp
traps a drab canvas cap,
aslant, at a Spartan altar.
Blank ban. Dark drawls,
drags. Stalls. Stalls.
Fragrant balsam garlands
fall fast, land backward,
fat and brash. A draft,
a flash, a fracas that
blasts a branch apart,
chants pagan psalms,
spans an adamant
Back at last, bark sparks,
spawns. Ash salts a palm,
a jaw, a flank.
toy\ ¹toi\ n. 1 : originally, (a) amorous behavior; flirtation; (b) pastime; sport: He’s
at least 40. He stands outside her window at night, chain-smoking, watching her
undress. His eyes are the color of mouthwash. His eyes lock on her when she slides
her foot up his leg under the porch table. She turns 15 a week later, picking cigarette
butts from her hair.
2: a thing of little value or importance; a trifle: She rolls into a ball and tosses herself
into his lap. He catches her and unrolls her flat on a pink bathmat, forgets to wash
his hands on the way out.
3: a little ornament; bauble; trinket: When she babysits, he takes her upstairs to see
his son, says, He’s been asking for you. In the dark hallway, he slides thick fingers
around her necklace, pulls her close. Drags her hand to his crotch. Whispers, See.
He’s asking for you.
4: any article to play with, esp. a plaything for children: His wife paints wooden
ornaments. She goes with the wife to craft shows, counts change. They take the
family station wagon, listening to the radio, while he stays at home with their boy,
one hand building a block tower, the other hand knocking it down.
void, \¹void\ vb. 1: to clear (a table) of dishes, remains of food, etc. after a meal: For
instance, his charming habit of throwing food when angry. Like the night he
whipped fruit at her head, oranges splattering the walls of their rented farmhouse,
apples rolling down the sloping wooden floor.
2: to clear (a room, house, place) of occupants: Sometimes she can still smell their
stench, the poison pair. The guests at the wedding all held their noses.
3: to exhaust (a subject) by discussion or exposition; to deal with exhaustively or
thoroughly: At least no one could accuse either of them of brevity, not with his habit
of quoting Rilke and her inexhaustible capacity for self-flagellation. Throw in a
couple of bottles of wine and a little infidelity and they could go all night.
4: to deprive of legal validity; to make legally void or invalid; to annul or cancel: The
day of their divorce, he sat next to her in the courtroom and held her hand and
asked, just before their case was called, Are you sure you want to do this? When she
nodded, he pulled his hand away. Now you can remarry, he said. No, darling, she said.
Now you can.
borderline, \-1līn\ adj. on a boundary; specif. on the boundary of what is
acceptable, valid, or normal; hence, having a questionable or indefinite status: Two
months later, she asks what is wrong with her. What is wrong beyond the obvious,
she means. They’ve already discussed the metaphor of her crooked teeth, her
peripatetic childhood, her insatiable lust for shame. He sits silent, implacable. She
erupts. You’re the doctor, for fuck’s sake. If you can’t tell me what is wrong, who can?
He looks down at his hands. Looks up. Says, Define wrong
ELIZABETH HAMILTON is a former journalist and holds an MFA in poetry from Southern Connecticut State University. She was an associate artist last summer at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, working with Richard Blanco. Her work has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Connecticut River Review and the Connecticut Review. She teaches composition and creative writing at Southern and lives in Connecticut with her husband and four children.