Sheila Squillante


You Would Become

Some nights
you lie next

to him as he
sleeps, shadowy

light striping
his face, and think

you would do anything
to enter him.

You would become
music, some orchestral

or unsteady beat,
or swathes of color

flicking, particulate,
on the skin screen

behind his eyelids.
Turn yourself

into whispered
fricatives, be his teeth

and tongue teasing
sound from soft palate.

First language
then lungs.

Exhalation, respiration.
Autonomic nervous

system. Lower
brain-stem. Digestion

and dilation, salivation
and arousal.

A sensory spectacle,
cellular melt, this



It Takes Strength to Be Gentle and Kind

–after Moz

My governing emotion is poignancy.
I don’t love it unless it hurts

or threatens to. Yesterday, someone asked
me when I was going to write

something happy. I’m in this poem
now, and want out, want to disappear

into I don’t know where else to go.
Honestly, I felt just fine when I left

the house today, muscles full of forward
motion, gone to glee. Glad to go.

But now, surrounded by spines,
books I cannot bear

to open, friends I cannot manage
to meet–well, I just don’t know.

Do you think you can help me?
A word I used to use too much

was diaphanous, and thought of sea water
in afternoon sun. I would describe

poems that way, remember? I meant that
in reading them, I could peer through

a scrim or a veil or is curtain really the image
I want here of water falling between words

and just make out the shape of things.
I loved that blurry world, but now crave

definition, want to slide my hand down
the side of our oh well enough said,

feel its contours heave
beneath my callus. Drag lips,

soft, along the curve of it, until something snags,
peels away in small, thin strips. I need you

more than I love you. Sweetheart,
the perfect poem is something crass and kissing,

full of assumptions, is green and gamey,
a field of chamomile or nettles,

filigreed, and lit from within.

Sheila Squillante writes poems and essays in Pittsburgh, where she teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University. She is the author of Beautiful Nerve, a collection forthcoming from Tiny Hardcore Press, as well as three chapbooks of poetry. Her work has appeared lately in Eleven Eleven, The Bakery, South Dakota Review and Redux. Visit her at, and write to her at

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  1. Pingback: “My Tribe” Interview with Sheila Squillante | Ellie Francis Douglass

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