Jan Beatty – title poem from Red Sugar (University of Pittsburgh Press 2008)
When I came across Red Sugar, via recommendation on Amazon no less, I got angry that I hadn't heard of her sooner. I felt cheated that I had not known about her in grad school; I could have learned so much! So, although she's pretty well established with three books published already, I think it's appropriate to include her work as the final post for the week because I love the raucous, decadent, visceral images and unflinching narrative that is so gloriously woman-centered.
You walk inside yourself on roads and ropes
of blood vessels and tendons, you walk inside
yourself and eat weather
When I was young, I was a comet
with an unending shimmering tail,
and I flew over the brokenness below
that was my life. I didn’t know until I was
twelve that we carry other bodies inside us.
Not babies, but bodies of blood
that speak to us in plutonic languages
of pith and serum. When I was
six, there was a man in the woods,
naked. I didn’t know him, but I knew
he was a wrong kind of man/so I ran.
With my inside body I see his skinny
white bones and curled mouth, he looks
like sickness and it’s the body inside me
that’s running, my red sugar body
that shows me the brutal road to love,
the one good man, the one song
I can keep as mine. I heard it once
when I was waitressing, something
made me turn my head, made me
swivel to look at a woman across
the room, wasn’t even my station,
but the red sugar said, go. When I
saw her up close, I knew she was
blood. I can’t explain this—I only met
my mother once. I said, Do you know
a woman named Dorothy? Her face
was pale, she said, No—in that hard way.
Maybe her red sugar told her to run—
but before she left, she grabbed my arm,
said, I did have a sister named Dorothy,
but she died. Two inches away from her
dyed blond hair, I said, okay, but both
our inside bodies knew she was lying.
Some people call it eating weather—
the way you swallow what you know,
but keep it—later it rises like a storm
from another world, reptilian and hungry.
It’s the thickness that drives us and
stains us, the not asking/just coming/
the cunt alive and jewel-like/the uncut
garnet and the lava flow/it’s barbarism/
bloodletting/the most liquid part of us/
spilling/spreading/the granular red sea
of sap and gore/sinking/moving forward
at the same time/slippery/red
containing blue/it’s the sweet,
deep inside of the body.
For more, see this video of the badass poem "I Shoot You."