Susan Settlemyre Williams
Your brown empty city. The desert's out
on grain. Light as sky in my palm,
soft feathers of your ash. Which will be set
that holds the feather of truth. Weighing,
that's weighed. Your dust doesn't balance
lifts on an updraft. In storm season once
in giant chimneys, miles above
or perfect balance, the boy hired to take out
he roped himself to it, walked upright its tilting
a branch on the left, then right-handed, one
limbs, one hand and one hand, and balanced
didn't fall at all, it seemed, sand-colored,
step onto sky, how he swung himself
strokes brought down the armless trunk.
were slow and brown, but the ground shuddered
chrysanthemums. The boy hung in the air
I don't understand how the body can be burnt
When I dreamed of Suzanne come back,
and her milk-blind eyes had turned
not dust hovering in brown summer air.
Sweet bite of loam.
Defined by what's cut away:
White bath. Snow light on gray walls.
on other walls, a flat roof. I tilt the blinds
And why bother? No one will know how
All the color cut away. I forget
Once I went out at two a.m.
blindly scribbled the dark, their flight
"Albuquerque, Your Ashes in Midair": This poem is in memory of my close friend, the novelist Rebecca Gault, who moved to Albuquerque three years before her early and unexpected death from cancer. In the poem I try to capture some of the strangeness of attending her memorial service in a strange city and of being given a portion of her ashes for her family back on the East Coast. Although I never actually scattered any of her ashes in the desert, I was very conscious throughout the trip of the temptation to do so and of questions of the soul's survival and the insubstantiality of the body.
"Silhouette" began with a casual comment by a friend about the period just after her divorce and evolved into an attempt to compress narrative and subordinate it to mood—a sense of bitterness and despair I don't remember having ever experienced in my own life.
"Lost": Again, this is an attempt at compressed narrative, in which the dying girl is intended to suggest as well those mythic lost girls, Persephone and Eurydice. The "seeker" may be Demeter or Orpheus, and simultaneously a member of a real-life search party. I have been struck often by the indifference the dying seem to feel toward the grief and urgency of their survivors—how irrelevant we become to them.