with drawn sword
dances on the backs
of immortal horses,
My sister calls me to arms.
I take dead stars
from policemen’s uniforms
and place them in a jar
My sister didn’t want to live a serpent in her heart
. a serpent who couldn’t be charmed when she fell
it was deliberate I tried to make her stay
. we sat around the kitchen table noon darkening she was gone
I went to Greece to see mermaid mosaics and heard
. my sister lost her mind in jail fragmented angels
bear her up what happened killed our mother left a serpent
. in my heart her hissing hair and steady gaze she had a gun
she disappeared protect me mother heart a serpent must be charmed
Gravity and Grace
My sister says to a camera:
You have no idea the pain
I’m in right now.
She looks fine, physically.
Looks great, in fact.
I have heard her mistake a car service operator
for a God who cares.
Would someone please come,
would someone please come to deliver me—
I have placed the phone in its cradle
and put her drunk to bed.
She wrote a letter about recovery:
We just got back from taking Roxie
on a long walk by the beach and I feel
really good. The exercise and fresh air
helped, despite the cold and fog
(I accidentally typed “god”).
The night after you left,
I dreamed about ghosts. I know this
might sound stupid, but was the Midwest
once covered with trees, like Pennsylvania,
and when people cut them down,
they just stopped growing?
Was good or fog your accidental god?
Where were we while our ghosts lived it up?
I’ve seen that English bulldog of yours hunt fog
for pinecones. She carries them one by one,
round and rough in her muzzle; drops them
at our feet, comes running back
on sand and shell to deliver me.
Her gravity is grace, and as gratuitous.
An accidental god topples me faster
than the world to come. Sister,
the tall-grass prairies are long gone.
Song Traversing a Tenebrous World.
. . . . . after a painting by Tino Rodriguez
Children pretend to be planes, arms raised,
laughing until they crash into one another
in the narrow, white-washed streets.
It is Great Friday. People mourn
as though a villager has died.
Was it you, Sister?
From behind strands of salt-hardened hair,
she stares to the back of beyond.
I feel her eyes, hungry to be gone.
I have passed her along the coast,
her retinue of Coors Light
and a hundred thousand unrecorded songs.
Each time she appears, I’m sure will be
the last, that next time she’ll turn up
in seine nets, newly mended after months
of plunder. Be a genius at something else
I tell her, when I don’t want to kill her.
Or: I love the way you play guitar.
If I find her in the sun
with her back against a tree, eyes closed,
bottles away, she’s beatific.
Grace Bonner holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her first book of poetry, Round Lake, will be published by Four Way Books in September 2016. She is a MacDowell fellow, and the former Director of the 92Y Poetry Center. She has taught English and Creative Writing at the Pierrepont School and abroad. Her poems have appeared in The New Republic, The Paris Review, Parnassus, Poetry Daily, The Southampton Review and other publications. Her memoir, Ghost Tracks, is about inheritance, sibling rivalry, mental illness, and how the American prison-industrial complex stretched one fragile family to its breaking point. She is a mentor in PEN’s Prison Writing Program.