Three Poems – Lisa St. John

Lisa St. John

Who Gets to be You, Now?

I write from the past to let you know
your devotion to red alert will fade.

What feels selfish now will heal you
and remain, righteous and whole.

Your tears will find new purpose.

In my now, the world exists of the hospital blocks
around east 66th and
above the chemotherapy suite and
under the MRI wing,
across form the nurse’s station and
through fear.

I write from the past to let you know
your sky will expand. This night will give way to a blood-yolk morning.

These polarities, then and now, are too confusing to be real. It’s like Pi.
The size of the sorrow isn’t important—the measure is constant. Two billion digits must look like stars in the wilderness sky,
indulgent and exhaustive, a nebular luminosity sending messages…looking for the future.

I write from the past to let you know
what once felt extravagant now feels like rations, basic bread and water.

The fierceness of pain will expand and crack your heart beyond blistering, beyond devastation.
Let anger’s intensity relieve the guilt of survival.

I am the past and cannot embrace you like a shroud; what will you become?
I write from the past to let you know there are things I do not know.
How dangerous is comfort?
How tender the awareness of beauty?

Where is there room for more?


Why We Are Here

Why can’t we wonder about what …
Is it too close to us, this magnificent reality of existence?

We focus on the destiny of starlight, the dank history of gravity. We invite wars
to decide who deserves to live and whose sacred text to read.
We debate whether or not robots and clones and AIs are human; we string together “what ifs” like a necklace or
a noose.

We write books (and then read them) about our purpose in life, our destiny; our inner dialogue with free will chatters on for decades and
is it not-
is it not enough
to know that the first sound every human being hears is the orchestra of the womb?
The mother’s beating heart, air moving in and out of her lungs, even the sound of her blood moving through the umbilical cord.

Is it not enough
of a miracle that every human being shares 99% of their DNA with
human being?

We can transfer a living human heart from one body to the next; we can print a heart from a machine. But we don’t know
why we laugh, or why cats purr.

We know that black holes can swallow entire stars—that the Magnus Effect makes balls fly instead of fall.

Why not wonder why the gray of a rainy autumn afternoon is different that the gray of a snowstorm?

We don’t stop
in astonishment at the ray of sunlight caressing a child’s face, or the graceful power of hummingbird flight.

We want a reason for our objective reality,
and then we want to argue about it.
And all the while there is the tender blue of morning and the raging violets of evening and the scars of our individual little lives all
waiting, waiting for us to see.


Not If, But When

Oxford, Kelly (@kellyoxford)”Women: tweet me your first assaults, they aren’t just stats.” I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pussy’ and smiles at me, I’m 12.” October 7, 2016 7:48PM. Tweet

She didn’t ask if; she asked when.
There were thousands of replies in the first hour. There were over a million in the first 24.

I was four the first time. I remember because I wasn’t in school yet.

Not If … but When.

No one notices If sitting in the corner. If is small and dark and blends in. If waits.

When doesn’t need to hide.
When is the flagellation of inevitability.

I didn’t know it was called rape. I thought all twelve-year-olds said yes. It made me special. What was there to tell?

I was eleven and it wasn’t rape really… .

Meanwhile, a bunched up pair of panties, blood of inner thighs, mountains and mountains of skulls from girlhood are tossed into the past and as forgotten as the tooth left for the fairy. It’s a rite of passage.

At breakfast, three women share rape stories. One woman is silent.
That doesn’t means she doesn’t have a story.

I was already fifteen so I don’t know if it counts … .
He said I was his very own “little girl.”
I never told anyone—I was ashamed.
He said he would kill me.
He said he loved me.
It was my fault.
I was drunk.
I… .

And we sigh
and we share
and we shrug
and we are silent.

Frozen screams line up in collective memory as if they belonged there.

This is not normal.
Is this not normal?

Not If but… When. When?

I want When out of the driver’s seat. I want When chained by the neck, running with cracked, bleeding feet behind the car.

I have no room left for mercy.

He said, “Just touch it. We don’t have to do anything.”

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One Comment

  1. all three poems amazing and thought provoking!

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