by Susan O’Dell Underwood

 

Livid reminder of who’s in charge here.
Even the heart might seem subsidiary, going on
and on in its peripheral
metronome out-pour, without sympathy.

The truer core: each month’s new testament
of appetite & suffering will size a woman up, seized
into a keening of humility & loss.
The muscling-in locksteps even within the brain
its hormones & its pain,
sloughing off living’s vivid ersatz.

Maybe blood really is justice here, the pure closed fist
renewing self, a self-tied selfish knot, not satisfied
until it bleeds the body to its boundaries.

It’s still life, what’s in the liver-like ballast,
the clots, the jugular preciousness
precise as mildew, organic-weird as fungus rings,
diminished to collapse & fail & flourish again.

No human stays inside there long either,
a fishlike flimsy rhapsody removed from dirt,
just passing through to go to dirt,
composed to live accruing toward the void again.

Days & years it waits there like a throne,
dark ruby in its bright necessity,
purest pout & primacy un-quelled,
unequaled, un-divined divinity of garish love.

Ferocious funnel running, linking
moments. It resolves to solve us all—
minutest ear & eyelash, whorl of fingerprint,
first breath, shared spasm, the cries
at leaving the largest love behind,
the burnished inside of a fluted bowl
prepared for gathering thunder.


SUSAN O’DELL UNDERWOOD directs the creative writing majors within the English Department at Carson-Newman University near Knoxville, Tennessee. Besides two chapbooks, she has a full-length collection, The Book of Awe. Her poems and nonfiction appear and are forthcoming in a variety of journals and anthologies, including A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia (University of Georgia Press), Crab Orchard Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and Ecotone.


Photo: “Red” by Ruud van Eck