By Corrina Bain
We are here to honor a dead woman-writer.
It’s a party.
A white lady in timidly indigenous clothing
smilingly wonders what Sylvia Plath
would be like now.
I am not really in the conversation, but
I nod along, pretending concession.
We are not all strong, I want to say.
And some are strong
but the burden is weighted against them
and some waste to cinder
in the heat of the flame of themselves.
It isn’t so simple.
A girl who survived would not be Sylvia.
Of course, happily, another age, cultural norms, antidepressants
have made the world more tenable for some of us.
How can you know?
And underneath the party’s polite chatter, I hear
A familiar noise has started up. It is the argument
for my death. My stupidity battling my cowardice
idiot game of neurochemical chess that gives me life
or not. I do no think that I am separable, now,
from the illness. How can you know, at parties
when it’s right to leave? Don’t say there aren’t
a legion of authors whose early work
you recommend most highly.
Sylvia? I trust her voice. I trust her tremble
and soar, how nearly perfect. And when not perfect, how
unutterably brave. How at liberty the reader is
inside the muscle’s howling chamber
There is so much she already had to survive
it’s clear. The thumbprint of hell
in the middle of her forehead.
Eyebrows singed off.
Of course I’ve long since left. The early November
drizzling its cold mist, the party in its bright room
receding behind me. The lady in her peacock-fringed batik.
Often, I do not feel confident in my argument for life.
A flimsy claim on a treasure, at best, elusive.
Often, I think that the same illness, in its second, bright face
is all that makes the world endurable.
I am not saying that I attain Sylviaesque greatness
but I know that death would not ennoble me
in part, because I know the work’s not done.
So. What if I finished it. What if I’d written Ariel
and gotten all the poison out,
so there was no way
to get the poison out again? What if the black dog
stopped following me, would not eat from my hand?
What an onion-simple reflex the tears would be, then
as I scissored out my veins.
I know. I’m a principled man.
There’s no excuse for hurting those that love you.
I am not saying it’s forgivable.
Only that I understand.
after Major Jackson
By Corrina Bain
Unblown heads of wishing dandelions
pretending to be made of concrete.
Weatherbleached fiberglass insulation,
where the roof hurricaned off,
naming itself godbeard, firmament.
Wedding dress asphyxiated in storage plastic.
It steals what it can – Queer, Black –
with these novelties on its snowblind expanse.
Your body won’t do it. Produces yellow,
actually, bones, cum, a pale cream color
upon close scrutiny.
Nothing in nature is that ice-pure
when it comes down to it.
Teeth clamped around the cigar’s brown ass.
Severed finger dropped into the milk.
Powerpoint slide explaining how
this is an improvement on an existing idea.
What do you think it means.
What is happening.
How a candleflame looks
confronted with daylight.
Corrina Bain is a genderqueer writer-performer. He has worked at a rape crisis hotline, a detox ward, an abortion clinic, and as a volunteer educator responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Mozambique. A former member of multiple slam teams, he has toured nationally and was showcased on Finals Stage at the National Poetry Slam in 2004. His work appears in anthologies and journals, including decomP, PANK, Muzzle, The Nervous Breakdown, theRumpus.net, Union Station Magazine, Knocking at the Door and A Face to Meet the Faces. Currently, he is part of the staff of the louderARTS project, and lives in Brooklyn.