Sibbie O'Sullivan

biographical notes



SHADOW DANCING IN THE SUBURBS

I am an ordinary woman.
I spend my time looking young
then giving up,
as though beauty were a bank account.
Sometimes when I'm alone at night
I dim the light and put a record on--
no, that one with the saxophones.
If you look out the window you'll see
the sky above the shopping center
glistening like a cheap engagement ring.

Last night
I stood behind the curtain
and watched my neighbor
rinse a pot and wipe its bottom
like a baby.
I watched as all along the block
the lights went out
and one by one
the bedrooms
turned a T.V. blue.

Sometimes when I'm alone
at night my arms
unwrap like smoke.
If someone looked inside
he'd see me floating
like a piece of lace.
I am the jewel.
I am the ruby fire.
And everybody looks at me
like distant light,
like the light above
the shopping mall.

Sometimes I let my back
become a rope,
a whip,
a pharaoh's fan.
I undulate and unlace
tennis shoes, the bra
I bought at K-mart.
My nipples stenciled
by the cold, offered to the empty air,
and I become a snake
who eats itself
and I am made of gold
and worn round Cleopatra's waist.
I could dance and
dance and dance
and be the pulse
of everybody's watching,
a drum,
a twang of light,
oh, I could dance the old desire
until the shopping center
fades from sight
and morning takes my window
for its wife.

 

LETTER FROM A ROMAN WIFE

You are so far away from me, and I am
stuck where not even the local stones
will spell my name when I am dust.
But I cannot be angry.
Do you remember your last night here,
how I oiled your sandals,
and before I was through you had woven
your fingers through my hair,
pulling me closer to your sunburned knees.
Oh husband, I don't care if the whole legion
reads this, I am that miserable!
That night we danced like those drunken paintings,
that night we did everything.
And I remember how you called my cunny pretty,
then drew a picture of it in the dirt,
knelt down and kissed it saying,
I love equally my wife and Rome.

Dear husband, I have not forgotten you
though it's longer than a year
and what you lips once kissed
the rains have washed away.
Say you are well, write me, send me trinkets,
anything to ease the rumors I keep hearing:
that the men in that far land are blue,
and snow falls clear into the Ram.
Since I believe the talk of slaves,
I have sent you woolen socks, a pair of sandals
and two pairs of underpants.

Home's not as you left it.
Pillage, and great sicknesses.
I keep busy.
I can work my distaff and my spindle,
though supplies are short.
I may have to sell the pots, our bed,
even the wine begins to taste of vinegar.
And there is something like the wolf gone mad
for those whose flesh is their religion.
It's all new fangleness, suspicion, knives.
I've seen senators salute the doomed horizon
as though they're farmers looking
for the weather. The palaestra
is full of whores, and the wives of generals
shop for boys in a carefree public manner.
The memory of you must keep me different.
I forego all invitations.
I braid my own hair.

One day I stole away. I lied to Livia
and took my donkey past the gates,
past where the wheat of our childhood
used to sway. I went out into the suburbs,
into the land of drums and open fires.
I have never been so scared.
I saw their tents,
their tents lined up until they filled the sky,
and felt within my blood the echo of your fear.
Oh husband, take care in your new home
for more than history separates us now.

         


Aimee Jackson, "Double Crossing"

see more of Aimee Jackson's work


THIS AND ONLY THIS

.........After Carnal Knowledge on the tube,
I rush to the honky tonk where saxophones bounce
......... .........off the bottles, and the slide
.........guitar moves backwards up your sleeve
......... .........like blood.

.........Here amid the working-class hips, Jim
Morrison looks out from the wall, his hands pressed
......... .........tight in prayer, and next to him
.........Sam Cooke, the Marvelettes, McKinley Morganfield--
......... .........all the teen-club idols

.........framed and stapled in nostalgia's proper angle.
Here the players look Armenian, but what the hell--
......... .........this is America.
.........Later, between the first and second set,
......... .........the drummer pukes outside,

.........then later still sips Thorazine.
It's Saturday night in suburbia, where the diners never close
......... .........and the rednecks weight their belts with metal.
.........Tonight a neon rainbow arcs above the juke box
......... .........like a covenant, and the selection

.........tray spreads open like a bible.
If the world should end tonight, bugaloo into oblivion,
......... .........a hundred motorcycles would go up in flames,
.........romance would wear a dirty undershirt,
......... .........and we would scatter, trinkets

.........of boredom, shimmied off our seats.
But no such luck. The bass man's tuning up, the singer
......... .........cups the microphone.
.........Beneath the heads of Jim and Sam and Hank
......... .........the waitress leers with many offers.

.........While the earth spins like a 45,
we rise up from our seats, and all that keeps us steady
......... .........is the gravity of dance,
.........the promise in a stranger's arms. This and only this
......... .........keeps us coming back.

Sibbie O'Sullivan is a writer who lives in Wheaton, MD. She writes poems, plays, and essays. She teaches in
the Honors Program at the University of Maryland, College Park.