The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Susan Terris

Take Two: Eclipsed / Ted Hughes & Assia Wevill

 

chemistry    fuck without restraint    but between
us    omens       she    mad phantom     haunts
taunts    she     hell-bent   makes all babes pay

oven gas        now    we      in his old house
his children   his rules        yes     you vamp
[flashback]    less fetching in pinnies   shrew who

usurps   uses her dishes    portents   her sewing
basket   even her chenille dressing/undressing gown
owl's cry      housekeeper   I make the porridge

wipe snot     rooster-man   pecks me to submit
I aim her tomato soup cake   at his head
   dung beetle       easy    old slag   needy hen

half-yenta queen   wanting her wedding ring
[extreme long shot]     oh   mister-led-by-his cock
spirit-killer    how you say Ass-ia    you

who only half-admit our child        murderer
Assia says    philanderer    well  just Brenda
or Carol     and forever in my face      Sylvia

no   Ted   you in ours   but we shall punish
    [fade in]     daughter and I    will mock all
who love Sylvia    the oven for us  two   too

 

 

Susan Terris

Take Two: Pact / Sally Hemmings & Thomas Jefferson

 

he never calls me girl or you    instead, Sarah, or
sometimes, African Venus    I wear Irish linens,
sleek cotton stockings  [adaptation]   though I speak

what—you thought I, a slave, would speak pidgin

fourteen-year-old French, I do not read well, nor do
I sleep in the small closet above his room  ours not
quite a love match but a pact, where I lie for

him and with him, but our children are all mine
though [backdrop]  sometimes when I am
on my back beneath him, he calls me Martha

you see, I am pale, comely, well-educated to be

his dead wife, my half-sister, but not tonight  as I,
jaybird-naked, open my legs for him, he is fierce
I cry out, weep, kick, bite, but he laughs,

cups me softly, says,  now roll back—together
we shall make one more sweet child who can
pass [catharsis] he says, and one day

equal to Master Jefferson in voice and in sin

I'll set your babies free, and maybe you, Sarah
Hemmings, proud, unknowable hell-cat,
you for whom my heart  [coquette noir] beats hard

 

 

 

SUSAN TERRIS' most recent book is Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems (Marsh Hawk Press). She is the author of 6 books of poetry, 16 chapbooks, 3 artist's books, and one play. Journal publications include The Southern Review, Blackbird, FIELD, Denver Quarterly, and Ploughshares. A poem of hers from FIELD appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. She's editor of Spillway Magazine. Her chapbook Memos was published by Omnidawn in 2015. A poem from this book was selected for Best American Poetry 2015. Omnidawn will publish her book Take Two: Film Studies in 2017. http://www.susanterris.com

 

 

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