Mudlark Poster No. 124 (2015)

Out to Tender
by Sarah Stickney

A Formal Feeling | Feather | Pomegranate
Paradise | Weren’t They Like Cherries

A Formal Feeling

Emptiness expands between an event and whatever 
follows. Drying coffee dribbles the car floor
and lost licorice. Evening begs a soundtrack
for living’s mania, for buyer’s remorse. No, not those — 
for the famous “formal feeling.” A good dramatic instinct
like fine bones in a horse improves the journey. At the hotel 
where the room’s paint job was unfinished, the clock 
read the wrong hour as if it were interpreting a dream. I wanted not
room service but to have eaten nothing. I wanted two years ago, 
but the hours moved forward in the usual fashion all night long. 
Go back and think about those things you said and felt he said. 
He ate his tooth at a diner so authentic the literal tabletops 
were greasy. We cried a little and kissed much and then 
two more before the plane. Not a concord. Me to return
to the DC of what it might be like to have money 
for tiny food and fancy blankets, my boots eaten by NYC salt. 
To see the Washington water from its important bridges 
was a grand gift of the light. A sheaf of wheat bending 
to please return to being alone.


The low moon hurries over the lake 
to leave us a new phase of feathered night:
a kind of stoned disappearance of weight
and water so still the stars stood between 
two forests of upside down trees. 
My back flat to the dock, between the skin 
of our palms no space. How much darkness
rims the body, how much of it words 
trim, working to keep us safe.


At the medieval anatomy museum 
a clitoris like a pomegranate seed
waits in the 14th century wax woman
who used to show medical students
where a baby grows. Waits for what
precise pleasure I don’t know —
Apollinaire prefers the nose, 
but a seed bursts darker
red inside the mouth. The beloved’s 
mistake is thinking. I want to be alive — 
aliver than that. The bones of lions 
struck together make a fire 
which is why I watch your face 
so closely. Nothing is to be despised 
not even the entrails of animals. Give me 
a turning word, for I envy fish 
their movement, and birds their bones of air.
To be shaken like a drop where I cling 
by a bluer fire than the bluest sky, 
I undress and stand by the bed.


It felt like an itch, so they called it itch.
Long days waiting in the sun 
for the sun to go down,
endlessly naming the animals.


There was always so much world
stretching out around them. Not that
the garden wasn’t big.


They forgot Paradise almost
completely. On purpose. Old later,
and wishing to remember
they struggled: What animals 
were there? She’d ask and he 
would wonder. Other than deer? 
Other than house spiders and Junebugs? 
I couldn’t see; they were far away, he’d say.

Weren’t They Like Cherries

tumbling, the huge 
drops: rain

on the window, while
I wanted next to 

you and kept
away. A heavy sound 

of ripe drips, our fingers, 
to mouths. Oh.

I am awake
all night. 

Sarah Stickney received her MFA from the University of New Hampshire. Her poems and translations have appeared in the U.S. and abroad in publications such as La Questione Romantica, Rhino, The Portland Review, Drunken Boat, Cold Mountain Review, and others. She is a former Fulbright Grantee for the translation of Italian poetry. The Guest in the Wood (Chelsea Editions: New York, 2013), her co-translations of Elisa Biagini’s selected poems, was chosen the University of Rochester in 2014 for its Best Translated Book Award for poetry. She lives in Annapolis, MD, where she teaches at St. John’s College.

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