Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Thirty-nine
Winter 2015
Arcana: You Grew Up in this House
Susan Slaviero

Go on: spill turpentine in the spare room and light a match, smell the dead
canvas, the scalded pan—
nest, joint, plaster—
Find the papers your father left, the columns of numbers
for what remains after the split, how much for the groceries,
for childcare and Prozac, the venom apology.
A cipher: instructions for how to pay the rent in water
wrung from a drowned wrist.

Wake up: gravid, dumb belly filled with books and nerves
and the flashback of insects and milk in a cracked cup,
radioactive sky.

Your mother told so many lies they became framework,
the bricks and mold that held her house together.

You know that the birds are made of chalk and the shadows
are unsafe. You find the interval between cusp and corpse,
the witch in the backyard, your cheekbones beautiful against
the poisonous leaves, the rusted iron gate.

Your job: clear it all away. The scabby knives, wicker chairs,
the drawer full of old fingernail clippings. The obscene curves
of your mother’s handwriting when she was lucid
and when she wasn’t,
pitching forward, edge to edge, tumbledown, deadleaf,
hot coffee and haunting, the pickaxe missing.

About Susan Slaviero

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