THE WARDROBE’S BEST DRESSED: TERESE SVOBODA’S “WHEN THE NEXT BIG WAR BLOWS DOWN THE VALLEY”

svoboda_terese

Inventor

The jay streaks through the lilacs
                       in color clash.
I note down: Invent
            outdoor birdswing
                                              so birds drunk
on berries fall off in plaid
            in front of my window.
                                                          I file it. After all,

the pussy willow’s barely tufted —
                                                          I have time.
             At the drain, lifting its feet,
                        a Modigliani bird — another invention?
The brook agrees
                        so brookishly, gulping at runoff
                                    like a bear in spring,
           like my husband. He didn’t trust my patents:

                       the squirrel-free gutter chain
                                    the collapsing arthritic’s cane
                      a lever for pulling old stumps
                                             in heavy rain.

But every act harbors a corresponding gadget.

                                     It is that way with God:
adjusting the acorn, locking the tree.
            With the womb, He was clearly Italianate,
the bulbous lines, the excess.
             I often think of Him
                         humming Beatles songs like me, over
                                     six Mason jars of pickling —
my offspring?
                        The dog laughs. You heard it:
a choke, then black gums, a frothing irony.

               He’s all wet from rescuing bones
                            from the brook. He drops them in,
                                                                            then goes in after.
               The brook’s rising with bones and I’m afraid
               the electricity will fail. Will the dog

                                save me with his laughing?
                          That’s what this invention’s for:
                the automatic rosebush waterer,
                           hooked to the sun and this wheel,
in perpetuity. Once a pirate working
on my outboard told me, Betty, better sand
            trickling in the hourglass than a shifting dune.
                                              Even the Sudanese
plant borders of aloe against the drifts.
           But I like the look of roses.

           Oh, that’s the husband at the door, scratching.
Nights his furry self stands naked
                       before me, until the dog
removes his stuffing.
                                   O bear! Only by opening
          the blinds do I see he’s bleeding.
                      It’s him, not me, aching
                                 with overdue maternity.
                     A simple drawerful of cobwebs
       kept for emergency does for him,
                     self-sticking,

                                then together we apprise
                                                         the chimney,
       holding hands and chatting about the soot stains.
                    That was in winter before he died, the deft
                                           air stealing all we were speaking.

                                                                                     Yesterday
                        a patent came for my speech retrieval unit,
            an unusual event, even for me, because
                         the government usually can’t get
past the drawings. And these were intricate:
            I had the duck by the neck, her feet
                        in food coloring, each step
            inked in. It all made sense — listen
to the ducks now. And just in time for the aspect —
                         ghosts are aspects, aren’t they?
            Of all but speech I have memory,
                                     that one sense shy of mimicry.

                         In the spring, now, in fact,
I take the blackfly larvae off rocks
                                                in the rapids.
         On toast, pre-maggot, the very eggs
                      of mortality, eating them I figure
         I can lure Death itself, a raccoon
washing and washing in the dark,
                      and from there, patent the trap.
         I’ll be rich if it works.
                    Works, go the frogs, works, works.


This selection comes from Terese Svoboda’s upcoming collection, When The Next Big War Blows Down the Valley, available November 1st, 2015, from Anhinga Press. Pre-order your copy here!

A 2013 Guggenheim Fellow in fiction, Terese Svoboda is the author of six novels, five books of poetry, an award-winning memoir and a book of translation from the Nuer. She is very lucky to have When the Next Big War Blows Down the Valley: Selected and New Poems 1985-2015 appear in November 2015 and Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet in January 2016.

Jacob L. Cross lives in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He studied creative writing and publishing at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he served as editor of The Popcorn Farm Literary Journal. His work has been featured in Still: The Journal, The Alchemist Review, and elsewhere. More recently, his poems are due for release in Clash by Night, a poetry anthology inspired by the punk staple, London Calling. He enjoys hiking with his wife, traversing Zelda dungeons, spoiling his dogs, and half-priced sushi.

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