Sara Quinn Rivara

Love Poem, SE Portland

My husband tells me he saw a coyote race down 26th Street
while he waited for his son outside the middle school. A cougar
 
killed a woman on Mt. Hood. Everyone is hungry these days.
Fire scorched Gorge means when the rains come, everything
 
could slide: houses, animals forced into the valley. I once
had a husband who called me Dog, who told me he’d chop
 
me into pieces if I left. How do I tell this husband I saw a doe
field-dressed and strung from a gambrel, a man peel her skin
 
from her joints in one swift tear? I told that man I loved him
because I was afraid. How do I tell this man and our sons
 
who are watching a cowboy astronaut movie and eating pizza,
are barefoot and safe in our warm bungalow, that wasps nest
 
in the walls, bears who haven’t eaten for months circle the house,
that I too am a wild thing, a lake squall, woodrot? I’ve bared my teeth.
 
S—, this husband tells me, that coyote was running from something.

 

 

Instead

The field is full of starlings, the air
hazy with wings. The baby asleep
 
in the bassinet. The baby has my ears,
my pilthrum; bow-lipped
 
he looks nothing like god.
For years I believed in heaven.
 
That what happened did not happen:
there was no fist against my throat, no violence,
 
no burns. No hurt. That it was my fault.
I learned to repeat: I am unfuckable,
 
I am unloveable, I am lucky
he loves me at all, for what is worse than a woman alone?
 
God bossed me from the couch.
I learned to want nothing but apples.
 
What is desire but a road, a pile
of stones? The world was terrible.
 
A woman’s body is a vessel,
is a sieve. If I could do it again
 
when the angel arrived to tell
me my fate I would stuff his pretty mouth
 
with cockleburs. I would shove him out
the door. I would point to the field
 
where birds were eating the seedcorn, tell
him those are the Holy Spirit.
 
Those are not birds, but flames.

 

 

Sara Quinn Rivara is the author of Animal Bride (Tinderbox Editions) and Lake Effect (Aldrich Press). Her poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Cherry Tree, West Branch, Dunes Review, Pithead Chapel, Crab Creek Review, 32 Poems Magazine, Blackbird and numerous other places. A native of the Great Lakes region, she now lives with her partner and their children in Portland, Oregon. She is also a classically trained singer, and performs with a variety of choral groups around the Pacific Northwest.

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