Poems: Sarah Blake

Reading in the Empty Bathtub

At this late hour, my skin
feels open. Every raised hair
a path in and some bug might crawl out
of the drain. A southern thing: bugs
always coming in, tiny webless spiders waiting
for them. Maybe something already
crawled in me. To live like a king,
my baby wearing a little crown.

My book drops off me, sits
in a tiny puddle, some upside down bird.
I lie like some dead woman who forgot
what a bathtub was for, who filled it
with cramps and ankles, whose skin
rolls off her, whose hair should’ve been shaved,
all the hair that gave her away.

The book smears and I wish
it could make bird calls and defend me
in a sort of frenzy. So the bathtub can do
what it set out to do, like some great
empty lake, like a giant mouth ready
to suck me dry.

I’m scared someone will come and just ask me
what I’m doing.

The boy will scream
at me, will lie in the bathtub,
show how it can look so misplaced
and gorgeous around his body, curled
like a lion. If he could eat me up.

My little spirit in his belly.
Him loving me
in the most erotic and fearless way.

Woman as a Low Hum

She let herself go until her stomach was a bag of gnats and she was a low hum.
So she hid her stomach beneath her arms. She made her own seam.

The women knew her top-half, a laugh like the wind, breasts heavy
as storm clouds. The men knew her bottom-half, a panocha warm
as the ocean
, they remember her last lover saying, and the one before.

She was beautiful, too. The men at the market told her: the butcher as he removed
the bone from a lamb’s leg, Let me come to your home and cook this for you, guapa;
the baker, Let me slice this for you, guapa, and his long, thin knife pulled on the top
of the loaf. They came around the counters for her and she kissed their dry cheeks.

The children thought if she reached over the counter her top-half would slide off.
The boys laughed thinking about it. The girls believed in her strong, brown arms.

But nothing stopped her. She was soon lost in her arms
and the gnats were everywhere. She was a great dusk.
She was the dark air in a baby’s open mouth.

The Red Doorway

I once was in a dark church and whispered
to the hanging lord. When I approached him,
the wound in his side opened and I went in.

A woman entered the church and screamed
at the sight of my roving eye, which bled
in the side of her lord. And so came a priest

whose familiarity with the good book
colored his dreams and showed his lord
in many forms. I looked in every direction,

sent my eye in a mad spin before pinning
his eye with my own, but it was no use.
He sprinkled holy water on me to be sure

he was safe, and though I hissed beneath
the lord’s ribs, the priest was not fooled,
and in seeing my desperation he knew

I was a woman. He closed my eye, put
his hands at the opening of the wound,
pulled it apart, and helped me out as he
would a lady from a carriage. I had arrived.
Sarah Blake is Editor at Saturnalia Books and co-founder of Submittrs. Her first book, Mr. West, is an unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West and was published in March from Wesleyan University Press.

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