Susie DeCoste grew up in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and completed an MA degree (2007) in English and Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as The Antigonish Review, Arc, CV2, The Fiddlehead, Grain, Poetry Ireland Review, The Toronto Quarterly, and QWERTY. A section of her unpublished manuscript received honourable mention in the 2007 Atlantic Writing Competition for Poetry; she was awarded the 2009 Graduate Creative Writing Award from the University of Waterloo where she is currently undertaking a doctorate degree in Canadian literature.
Da Vinci instructs: Remove by degrees
all the parts of the body of a man
in making your dissection, till you come to the bones.
At the level of the knee, rolling hills
stretch along a horizon, offering vantage for surveillance.
To begin, Vesalius removes the skin.
Some bits are displayed, others left to hang.
Muscleman stands at the edge of a cliff,
lifts a hand for mercy, resists the removal of layers.
Skin and muscles, valleys and rivers. The anatomist gets deeper.
Landscape disappears as the body gets mapped.
The audacious surgeon’s scalpel! What affront.
To the body. To the sloping hills.
By the time the veins appear, the figure is boundless.
There is nothing left of the world.
I’m looking for a change.
Shears snip a bit, so irritating and clippy.
They steal my voice.
How dare they filch the helpless parts
while I sit and fold my hands.
If I were to set down the last five years
it’d be a plate of cherries: pitted, scarlet,
juice all over, threatening stains.
Meanwhile, the blue barbicide pickles stiff combs.
Someone plucked all the flowers in the garden.
Who bothers to remember what peonies smell like anymore?
Hair is halfway down my back and I don’t trust myself.
Just sever it.
If you’re lonely, organize the library by size.
Run palms over spines, cheek to leather.
I’m in the book, out of the book,
past it. I’m not even in the room.
I speak about books as if I am one.
Or several, scattered through the upper rooms of this house.
Looking back, books have ruined my life.
I left one under cover in the garden,
a bed of rooting ink.
Secrets in the crack of the wall,
press an ear against the murmuring.
A woman is dreaming you up:
foot bent with toes on the floor.
Each of us floating to our deaths,
why tie the rope so tightly to the dock?
The arch of her back:
a fluid line, continually moving around the room.
Ophelia’s thin red hair immersed;
open jaw, about to speak—
Wilted petals redden stale water
in the glass observatory of my body.
My better half (so-called) lurks beside
the goldfish pond, shooing the herons.
Light’s drained from the valley, sun sucked it back.
Lamp’s broken, matches sopping wet.
I can no longer read what I’ve written.
If I could move my arms, I’d throw my hands.
It’s time to replace torn sheets, the down pillow.
Dried rose dust in patterns on the bedroom floor;
doorknob hangs loose from its door.
Empty stroller parked outside
Mad flapping in dried leaves: a partridge
flounders in front of an unleashed dog.
Some women will admit to dreaming motherhood,
as if it’s coming for them: that urge to roll on the ground and feign injury.
Mothers around me flick seeds from branches or buzz
lightly, lightly. Flower to flower, nuzzling or flailing their wings.
Offspring huddle in groups around them,
or trail behind. The cygnets refuse to blink.
Read glossy headlines in convenience store windows,
forget for a moment my yearning: a blue robin’s egg, speckled.