I used up the summer controlling people
[in a video game]. I made him handsome
and tall and I made her patent the peanut
-size sheath that keeps umbrellas open that keeps
them from collapse. She got picked up for work in
a mint green Datsun each morning and one day
I made him drop his soft wallet in the street
and I made her DING DING hurtle after him
like a sneeze. I watched their nailless fingers touch
and then I intervened because god! think of
a pursuit less fruitful than affinity!
I made them go about their days. He married
a dentist and she died young and he ran down
his years evading the diagnoses of
bruxism and she died young. Neither handed
the damp debasement of a life spent wanting.
Their lives were lilac aldehyde there was no
asbestos slung behind their walls. Now Autumn
is here and I need a life soft-edged with heart
motif a small girl’s ring-bound notebook. I need
insight. It oozes from the corners navy
damp DING DING You’re a product of your choices
you’re a totem pole you’re hunger on top of
caprice on top of the grazed cheeks of debauched
nights spent folded your face in the gravel like
an animal. I decide to fix things I
streamline my practices. I wear a yellow
mini dress in an always temperate clime.
My house is pristine now and if not I’ll eat
or fuck or swim to lessen the scores of it
all. I’ll buy a dog and then I’ll teach that dog
to die and when it does my children will be
prepared for everything in the world and then
– when my life is panacea smooth – a new
person will enter the game through the back door
DING DING yes it is attainment and we’ll dance.
We’ll dance to the open fire on the stove
top to the graceless wordless music to all
the things I mistook for the sky and we’ll dance
to the entombed cockatoo moans of my dog
– buried neat beneath the geranium bush.
by Susannah Dickey
The latest Poetry Centre podcast is now live! Poet celeste doaks talks about her wonderful chapbook American Herstory (Backbone Press, 2019), which explores Michelle Obama’s time in the White House and her choice of artwork for the White House walls! Listen via our website or the usual podcast providers.
‘a black cloth over your face isn’t the same as night’ is copyright © Susannah Dickey, 2020 and is reprinted here from bloodthirsty for marriage (Bad Betty Press, 2020) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.
Notes from Bad Betty Press:
There is an arresting and profound specificity to Susannah Dickey’s astute tragicomedy, in which the sky is ‘the colour of a cous cous salad’, gods rub shoulders with video game characters and everyone is enslaved to desire.
Corrupting the classically male, reportedly frivolous hendecasyllabic form, Dickey forges a register that feels both ancient and millennial. At the centre of this work beats a star-bright pain, seen through the poems’ breezy vacillations and squandered love, crushed to a shimmer. You can find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.
Susannah Dickey is the author of three pamphlets, bloodthirsty for marriage (Bad Betty Press, 2020), I had some very slight concerns and genuine human values (The Lifeboat). Her first novel, Tennis Lessons, was published in July 2020 by Doubleday. You can follow Susannah on Twitter.
Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, founded in 2017 by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. We love writing that is bad (in the Foxy Brown sense) and beautiful (‘a Betty’ in 90s slang). We love the strange, raw and risk-taking. We believe strongly in art’s capacity to challenge its own definition, to curve away from the norm, making space for more and varied voices. Find out more about our books on our website and follow Bad Betty on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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