Selections from 96 Quite Bitter Beings
By Shelly Harder
Sometimes I wonder if this grief is not my own. A site for the least personal event. A sadness nameless, destitute. No one’s.
The old Greek dramas solve the problem of the stage by having the unthinkable happen behind closed walls.
I’ve always had low tolerance for cries of pain. A horror of hospitals, the accoutrements of decay, a fear of indigestion.
I discover myself outside myself like the last bits of mustard squeezed from the tube.
To essay, to attempt. There can be no thought here of conclusion. Rather, an assembly of weeds floating.
Grief splinters the viable world. Everything waits, taut and timeless.
Once I thought about how time accrues in objects, but it makes as much sense to think about objects out of which all the time has seeped, so that they squat, devoid of context, flimsy, odd.
Nightly I am stolen. There is no evading the small estrangement sleep demands.
A cobweb floats, delicate strands akimbo.
A leaf spirals between branch and pebble. Rocks bruise toes the icy earth numbs.
A government raises the price of fuel and hunger riots. Last droplets cling to the bottoms of cups. Water that cleans festers in grout.
One, 40 000 killed during his reign, declared the courts had done him wrong.
But who shall rectify? And what shall satisfy pain’s lean greed?
A bird floats belly-up in the marble pool. A man shakes his paper cup, musical with meagre change. Sultry eyes regard from billboards.
This morning I awoke, and there was only the green silence, and I knew that I should be happy, and was not.
This flight is now boarding through great tutu. No. Gate two two.
I need a spandex skull, strict but slightly flexible.
And ever the unnameable grows, the wanton muteness growing.
Then make a road of metaphor and sprint along it until you fall insensate and that is when the moon begins to waltz and the trees reveal their neon truth but you collapse along that honey surrender.
Darling, batwings waken. Budded are moonflowers on balconies. We could nest within a suture of the fog.
I speak of steeples to tire tyrant hours. Toenails, tapestries, teardrops - all must find place.
Text. Textus. Tissue. To make a wicker or wattle framework. To weave, shape, form.
Orgasms and reason both are rhythms of the body.
Your face granite, your voice wet, it slaps. It might press all the air out of the world.
And sleep is too tender a place, raw kindness.
As many worlds as there are heads on pillows.
Sometimes I wonder if this grief is not my own.
Do spiders breed in vacuum cleaners?
You can’t torture a brick.
Someone said, did you have to burn the tacos? Someone said, my dog my dog my dog.
Think of Adonis, gored by a bull. He died in Aphrodite’s arms and when his blood and her tears had met the torrent blossomed into anemone.
Think too of Acteon, turned stag and hunted by his hounds when he had glimpsed the goddess bathing.
Think of rhythm, think of memory. Think of the jewelled dark.
Think how your lover tastes in the dark.
Shelly Harder hails from rural Ontario, with a first chapbook, remnants (Baseline Press, 2018). Their work has recently appeared in Touch the Donkey and Is It Less Lonely Like This: isolation collaborations (Collusion Books). They are an editor at Poets Versus, a literary platform tackling issues of social injustice. Find them online at hardershelly.wordpress.com.