NM Poetry: Bonnie Arning

12:51 PM


We here at Things in Light love poetry. And New Mexico's literary landscape is steeped in the stuff. In celebration of National Poetry Month, TiL will present poetry by members of the exciting and diverse contemporary New Mexico poetry community. The fifth TiL NM Poetry entry provides a two-poem introduction to the work of Albuquerque native and UNM Poetry MFA student Bonnie Arning.

I wrote my estranged husband a love letter,

it was three words scribbled on the back of my palm it was three hundred words
of shorthand scratched out of his favorite .05 width-tip pen it was a series of questions
about the life span of red giants it was manifesto on the seriousness of plate tectonics
I asked about his barber I asked about his mom I told him how much he still loved me
I suspect he might swallow it he might light it on fire take a photograph and make copies
take a megaphone and read it to the neighborhood take a knife and carve it verbatim
into the trunk of our favorite tree he will kiss the places where I let tears blot the ink
where I drew pictures in the margins where I rubbed it against my skin until oil soaked through
I slept for twenty nights with it tucked beneath my pillow I read it aloud until it sounded
like vows I erased the whole paragraph on Vietnamese soup the straw mushrooms
float alone in the broth because you are not here to eat them
and changed the observation
it's possible for a field to have a positive divergence without appearing to diverge at all
and replaced it with
F=F¹i+F²j+F³k because that way only one of us would have to know
the truth I had it dictated to a scribe I had it hummed to a psychic I had a palmist trace
its complicated lines it was composed on the solstice when I was blindfolded by the longest
stretch of night it was placed in the offering bowl at mass it was buried and exhumed
it was folded into a flower then tucked behind my ear. Take it husband it belongs to you,

as you once belonged to me. 


Pearl

Alive! What a shock. Blood sparked
from a single point, then two, then four,
then every bloom on the bush springing
open at once. You
—the brightest bouquet

of cells in my body. Arm bud, leg bud,
heart bulge:
my heart—mansion
one hundred times your size. Congratulations!
Today you have grown an eyelid, today

I have picked out your name. You're a pearl,
sweet as the dark caverns of your circle-pit
eyes. Today I declare love for the C shape
of your spine. O, how I want you alive,

crawling with snails, crusted with barnacles
and tight fisted clams. Wild Pearl of summer—
you will be born to the tides of July. At our first
appointment I expect the doctor to press 

the plastic replica of a fetus into my palm and say:
here is the baby inside you. Instead he hands me
a cup for urine. I go to the bathroom and discover
blood. Doctor why am I bleeding?

I'm sorry but it looks like the fetus has been aborted.
Aborted?
Not Abortion—how much I want you.
Abort program—Abort mission—Mayday! Mayday!
It's Pearl on the radio,
                her jet has been hit,     
she plummets
                          towards the ocean—

Miscarriage: to carry you wrong, to mishandle
your body. Bedridden, I let you soak into the mattress,
crust upon my thighs. Pearl, is this your blood
or my blood? Which of us is wounded?

I am an augur looking for shapes
in the dark stains
—questing for the contours
of your body. I want to outline each one
 in chalk—after all, my daughter has died here.

When the bleeding stops I drink a martini,
I begin to smoke again. Friends call to say:
don't worry, it was a blessing in disguise.
Congratulations! You have dodged the baby-bullet.

On my way to the grocery store something cuts,
cramps, pain and then—a warm lump between
my thighs. Pearl! I want to strap you in a car seat
and drive you to the park. I want to take your picture

and send it to my mother. I need to call the coroner
but what about your death certificate? Won't they
want a birth certificate? I am talking to you as if
your body didn't resemble a chewed hunk of liver.
                                                     Oh my baby,

I bury you in the back yard, like a dead cat, like a dog;
your crumpled stem tucked into the soil. I place a pearl
there as headstone, my marker—because I can't escape
the need to make some proof you were alive.  
———
Bonnie Arning is an Albuquerque native who is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at UNM. She is the current poetry editor of the Blue Mesa Review and has work that has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Gargoyle Magazine, and 2River View.

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