The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2018

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APR 2018 Issue

Six from Atopia



Speculative cobwebs embroidered with flowers
back in the love garden of eternal truth, I am as unhurried
as the smallest
creature left to revel in its own zigzag.

Take the fucking wine away! Its red center,
the Saturns of my splendor and my emotional
landscape is cured for a day or a daydream is turned
into the vicious news cycle reeling in pain

Destroy my body, take away the wine and the drugs
and the centers of my thinking
so naked before you
Take away the music and the car and the job,
take away the riddle of my body

There is nothing mysterious to do here:
I am just nipples and goosebumps




The madness set in        as coral reefs bleached
This debt in my hands      will you take the rings?
One word would set me off       into the dust murmurs
of my own soul     rains barreling down      a lifetime of traumas
“I may not get better”         I told you nature is violent and I am too
What badness of men, miserable men     at the computer
was never going to solve      our strings, simple as corrugated dream
Nothing practical     in my iambs or slang      will save me from
the unnerving 666         can you handle this?
Give me vitamins! Give me some        old operatic feelings
like the long sequestered          loves I have shot into my chest




Spring proliferation of rain and cops.
National Weather Service alert.
What would they say
If they knew I spent all day making a cake
shaped like a school bus from a 1970s
cookbook I found on a walk?
Passages of production. Touch them.

Sudden drop in the metallic temperature.
Today, I’m glad to be my salary.
Forget me not.
There were so many services.
The department of homeland security
SUV I trailed from Tallahassee all
the way to South Georgia turned off
a dirt road on Spring Hill. Whatever
in the fuck? No way to know
which hyper cosmic abyss they
sucked on, spit up. Fatal slope
of magnolia blossoms
inside the controlled burns. I look up
from the abandoned Sunnyside
Convenience Center parking lot,
a burnt palm leans against a wood
electricity pole and I’m a monk.
The drugstore here sold such cheap
elixirs once. I wish to spend
my life sealed off these structures of surveillance.

The lion or a grafted tree
as a sign of fertility, I gazed upon the tenure
of my feed where fake news doubled
with espresso and the media
was like some sort of mediation
we are all so famous now
we are all so famous
that death is made ridiculous
look at you death, how ridiculous you are
with your freakish body,
whoring yourself out like that.




Inside     encrypted eternity   robots store my rosy data
They say I have       healing powers     and this morning   like a wave
I hail the glory     of the jolie wolf   the Irish Elk       depicted in the 19th
century   lithography Oh kiss me     This is why I don’t     believe in hell
other than the theory     of Iceland             I made up     in my bathtub
which involves   the middle       and upper classes on vacation where
they don’t have     to see or feel   this lush C02 overgrowth   the die offs

Goodbye, long-spined sea urchin   washed up         in that glossy red tide
I’m on a tour       of the magenta volcano     that blows     money and ash
the surface ice-slick       with both           debt and credit   In this epic  
an industry           springs up around     the poet   who has not been able to read
quietly in years     I confess I wanted things       to be perfectly acute
and in that chrysalis         like nuclear energy       these worlds
shoved into containers       always exploded     blood from the mouth and nose

I owe the library my sorcery     Return the Egyptian     Book of the Dead
but I cannot eat     my abominations       under these palm trees
Happy is the corpse       that the rain       rains on!
How these fronds     are so bewitching   like Gregorian chants
but I know   autumn comes despite monophonic grief   on a boat
which also carries         red grains of beer     Hail, guardian of the door
I have made     my offering     Now, give us peace




In dreams death       is not a passport   There’s no     transportation
No River Styx     No coming or going   “No guide,” I said
Not the light from       an open book     in a room of ancient libations
Nor the marble-vaulted       Kropotkinskaia Metro Station   Not the architecture
of the vernacular   Not these preparations         for the apocalypse
Oh falcon-headed god       who guards the river     is that your tiny house
built on the         edge of the empire       with my ten dollar donation to

St. Francis Wildlife Association   in exchange for eclipse glasses   permafrost
thawing on the sun         death is merely a body         cut in half by a machine:
sometimes a car       or factory wheel, sometimes a knife       or cult
But mostly it is the body      cut in half     by the eyes       There’s so much
we don’t know       Helen killed by a Nazi       in Charlottesville
on August 12, 2017   the day I turn forty   No blood in the spring    
no blood on the shore           the eclipse brought on   my period

There was a wolf   at my door   My father  importer of exotic fruits
I stripped off   my tunic     renounced my income       The protesters
were a wave     If ever birds   land on your shoulders   and you renounce
this mercantile life   the shadows elongated   the screen hurt my eyes
On the bank stood that lone   Belted Kingfisher  on the bank
of the vernacular         on the bank         of the flesh with a fish
glinting     in its beak     please speak     like a piece of god




Permission slip signed     for kids to see     the eclipse
Now let us       monetize our         agonized sensorium
Don’t drain yourself today         of what you need
A sequence of scenes   Charlotte and I     on the beach
The beach is fake         made of salt     elderly people
line themselves   to touch the salt cliffs   with their naked
bodies as if     this were a shrine   Charlotte gets a sunburn

in minutes   passes out     hits her eye     it swells
she’s still a toddler     a bunch of people gather around
a huge jewel       encrusted moth     flying in slow motion
by the salt cliff   the moth lands on     the hand of a woman
The sky fills with chickadees   each one weighs   11 grams
People take their selfies     with the dream moth     alongside
the dream sea     and the dream beach     and the dream vermin

There is no future for us here     Who will read this?
It is not a climate     worth living in      I have brought children
into it       I have sacrificed nothing     There was not enough free time
to accomplish our     political goals      I have gone online to read an article
interpreting what the moth means       It is not good
I believe the interpretation        It’s a scholarly paper
The chickadee and moth   disintegrate before me     Our lands jolie



Sandra Simonds

Sandra Simonds is the author of seven books of poetry including Atopia (Wesleyan University Press, 2019) and Orlando (Wave Books, 2018). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Granta, The New York Times elsewhere.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2018

All Issues