January 30, 2023

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“Stalked on the Red Bed” [by Susan Wheeler]

Shanked on the Red Bed

The bar was up and the puck was in the air.
The timid drove and the discouraged didn’t bother.
As I came out to seek you, the vaunted breeze whipped the air
The bard had built on ignited packets in order to please.

The century dawned and the blame lay with the omissions
The smallest mammal reminiscent of what was in the vault,
The shrieks shrill, the ink strokes full of mixed remorse —
When I went out to look for you, the toad had left its web.

The discourse flared, the jury sang, the lapdog tugged on the leash–
When I went out to find you, the clerk took the beach
With tousled hair and disheveled nerves, without a shred of propulsion,
While all around came the clatter of polished wooden blocks.

When I went out looking for you, the cuts had started.
A demento took a shop girl to a raisin dance for fun,
And for you, for me, for our ridiculous and chaste quests
The leaden sky radiated its utter disgust in every cloud.

Mayors lined up for mug shots as the banner rolled in the wind
That banged against bolted windows and pierced the thin,
And everywhere distorted saviors grew warlike and valiant,
As I walked out to find you in the reconstructed rave.

The envelopes were in the slots and paperweights were being thrown.
When I came down to see you the torrents had started
To pluck the pan from its handle and horizons from its shore,
To rip apart your intoxicating heart and search there for more.

– Susan Wheeler

from The Best American Poetry 1998 (ed. John Hollander)

From the archives, first published March 13, 2009.