Virginia Smith Rice
A room filled with what has been
disowned : names, a disfigured religion or two,
a host of paper waifs that slip between rails
and stick underfoot until there is nowhere
left to stand. Nowhere, I lie down
beneath the floorboards, a great blood muscle
that ruptures beams, joists, rapture.
Is it a woman’s body that destroys? An embolism
dissembled? Doctors diagnose a red intensity
of unexpected breadth. By doctors I mean
the new year. By diagnose I mean dissolve.
By dissolve I mean owned by a flinch-
hollow figure with no semblance of solve,
a cheap salve.
At the center, contentment of a sort
and a wall.
No more speaking : our whole life
hushed and hushed. What a comfort
to grow blank as memory
washed clean at the moment of birth.
What we come to : a mouth
after words, all language unfolding,
soft hands placing our voice
with a few cut lilies on the blue sill.
Through the opening : figures
gather fragments like small coals
dropped in the street, taking
always a step and another step
from this sense, this knowing.
At the end of dying goes violence,
all power and surge, all shorn
to root the cellared earth. Underfoot,
a scurry beneath floorboards : one
undiscovered letter releasing its breath.
I’m tired of seeing me fill the whole sky,
my vast excess crowding the soft,
soft fall, a mouth open underwater
and not drowning, fog chilling
our faces like floral arrangements : gleam
and breathe the small night. Night a scaffold,
like the structure of green, for example,
how it scrubs shadows out
from under the trees. Behind the quilt,
the other side : livid, lived in. You, my first-
gone, surprise me in my sleep, twice now
since you died. Velvet, desiccate jaw,
parchment crown. Should I sink, too,
beneath these blue borders? But you are not
here for me, a wave on the ocean you keep
inventing, the map of your last appearance.
And you are happier with your work
which continues beyond the cleared morning
where I stay placed, and you stay gone.
I remain unconvinced that anything good
ever happened here, cluttered with thimbles,
mirrors, a threadbare receipt preserved
like a pocket of earth : apricots, orange peel,
and somewhat tart to go with meat.
Out From Under
And so we arrive here
together. And rage, breaking
everything within reach, but not one
another. And rock in this dark, tunelessly
humming, feet flat on the floor.
And learn that memories can be
outgrown, if not outrun. And wait
for the snow that will not stop
to stop. And raise the stakes,
growling at every tree. And face the dawn,
arranging our selves in this frayed
skin light for the outside world. And keep
an empty bag by the door, ready to bring
nothing with us into the skittish day.
Virginia Smith Rice is the author of the poetry collection, When I Wake It Will Be Forever (Sundress Publications, 2014), and a chapbook, Whose House, Whose Playroom (Dancing Girl Press, 2017). Her poems appear in The Antioch Review, Baltimore Review, Cincinnati Review, CutBank, Denver Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, and Southern Poetry Review, among other journals. Collaborative poems written with Christine Pacyk appear in Jet Fuel Review, and in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press, 2018.) She is poetry editor at Kettle Blue Review and associate editor at Canopic Publishing.