Two Poems

On “I Saw Three Cities” by Kay Sage

Neither living nor dead,
I saw three cities,
all without blood. I, too,
am bloodless, without heart
or motion. John or Nike,
I stand in the gray-green of a storm
that never comes.
In one of the cities,
I saw a death. A gun
as lidless as I am wrapped
in a woman’s stiff hand.
A bullet folded through the fat
of her heart, as if she too were
pole and cloth. I will not tell you
what I saw in the other two cities.
Not the land of the dead,
but its twin. This is the place
where grief goes static.
Not the violence but the
dissociation after. A land
where no shadows move.
But see how my robe or shroud
is caught up in a wind that
must have blown. See how
I grew shoulders, almost, to bury
my lack of head so it can sob
without a mouth. Are still things
really still?

On “My Room Has Two Doors” by Kay Sage

The places you can go by egg
these days. To mornings as crisp
as sheets, or back inside your mother
when you were not yet you. Cramped
compartments are expected anyways
when traveling by train or bus,
and the yolk will give you shine.

An arch, too, is equally serviceable
if you want to go. I always hold
my breath when going through that
kind of door. The weight will want
to come back, surely, from where
the builders carved it away from stone.

My room has two doors,
but right after you died, it had none.
It was as if I were a light bulb
and grief a mouth. I went in
with no hope of passing.
Teeth prevented my leaving.

I have seen my birth and my death,
both are plain enough. But what
is this green light that suffuses,
and why is my life one room?


Nadia Wolnisty is the submissions editor of ThimbleLitMag.com. Her work has appeared in Spry, Apogee, Anti-Heroin Chic, *Isaucoustic, McNeese Review, Paper & Ink, and others. She has chapbooks from Cringe-Worthy Poetry Collective and from Finishing Line Press and a full-length from Spartan. Her third chapbook is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.
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One thought on “Two Poems

  1. I didn’t know the work of Kay Sage before I read these poems. Each of the paintings offer different pleasures. Three Cities has a figure clearly foregrounded, and the background is abstract geometric shapes, very reminiscent of Last Year In Marienbad. The description of the gun in a woman’s hand visually rhymes with the knurled texture and shape of the figure, like organic and inorganic had merged. Cronenbergian (!). As with Marienbad, the poet compares the land to the dissocative aftermath of violence (in Marienbad, the dissociation precedes, but the violence at the end is mythic, so is “always already”). The last 7 lines are my favorite, dramatic and self-referential and gestural, and completely grounded in the Body, made more effective by the gun’s premonition of violence.
    My Room strikes a different, less dramatic, conversational tone. There’s cleverness in the shifting syntactical perspectives–one travels by egg, but the yolk gives you shine. The cleverness and imagination continues with the “that kind of door” and the absence that wants to refill with what is gone. However, the cleverness and wit of the 1st half of the poem makes it hard for me to feel like anything is at stake when the poet says “you died” or the simile that comes after. It’s hard for me to make the shift to the darker, supposedly grieving tone.
    I guess if I compared the 2 poems, I’d find more pleasure in the visceral immediacy of the 1st, whereas, when I find myself doing the intellectual connect-the-dots of the 2nd–lightbulb –> green light suffuse, for example, making “sense” of the associations.
    An interesting note: seeing the 1st painting, 3 cities, immeasurably enriches the 1st poem. However, seeing the 2nd painting undermines the pleasure of the opening stanzas of My Room. My Room, in it’s freewheeling conversational absurdity & wit reminds me of Tomaz Salamun’s “Tea”

    tea knows precisely why it is tea
    it has no desire to be Catalina
    here he comes again that ancient one
    how I used to sit in Bruges
    in my brown gabardine suit
    and eat something resembling calamari
    and my friend Sicco van Albada
    son of the redheaded Jewess my father’s friend
    how he used to try to persuade me
    incessantly go back go back to the Beffroi
    because I left my knapsack there
    while staring at the Beguine sisters
    at the way they looked on the road
    at the swans at the drowning of Memling Gruuthuus
    at Christine interpreting the legend of St. Ursula
    then all of a sudden a Mr. Content
    Belgian gynecologist tells me
    I used to know Marini personally what a failure
    do you call that a horse
    and for the first time there was
    this incredible creak in my lining

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