The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Sheila Squillante’s “Beautiful Nerve”

Squillante Pic

This Weather

As if there were something other than this weather—
ice-heavy branches bent beneath a purposeful weight.
As if there were something other than fright, this heavy-
handed strangeness. The child, who weighs near eighteen
pounds today, did not begin this way. No, no, then, slim

and wispy and slight; unaware of how you spun, split
yourself, spiraled into a vision of him, years out, old,
older, now but a wisp of skin and hair and nails. Nothing.
Nothing. In the series finale of your favorite cable television
     drama,

a young woman with insistent red hair drives away.
Away from her crazy, beloved family and toward a bright,
heavy life. Drives a heavy family away. Heaves a family finale.  

Toward and away from now which feels as much like place
as time—your body, its milky topography with no map key
in the bottom left-hand corner. The woman, a bright
     stranger

on the television. The child, a heaving stranger in your arms.
For two weeks now: dull ache, shut drapes, rocking, rocking,
rock-hard breasts in a hot shower, hoarse voice in a hot
shower, voice singing in a darkened room, voice brightening,
awakening, pushing you down. In the series finale, everyone
     dies

in their own time and you hand your child—whom you do love,
but inarticulately yet—to your husband and you weep
for five and a half hours. You know you will drown
amid these strange, bright fluids. You will all bend
beneath this sweet, frightful weight.


This selection comes from Sheila Squillante’s book Beautiful Nerve, available now from Tiny Hardcore Press. Purchase your copy here!

Sheila Squillante is a poet and essayist living in Pittsburgh. Author of BEAUTIFUL NERVE as well as three chapbooks of poetry, her work has appeared in journals like Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Phoebe, The Bakery, Thrush Poetry Journal and elsewhere. She teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University, where she also serves as editor-in-chief of The Fourth River.

Ben McClendon is a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Tennessee. He previously studied poetry at Northern Arizona University after teaching high school English for several years. His poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Yemassee, Cæsura, Chariton Review, Redivider, Rattle, and elsewhere. He is currently Assistant Poetry Editor for Grist: The Journal for Writers and a poetry editor for Four Ties Lit Review. Ben lives with his husband in Knoxville.

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