Susan Terris



The burnout gown was meant for her,
a film of cut velvet,
low and rounded at the neck,
on the bias like a Thirties gown
draping to cup breast and ass, show nipple
and bush yet conceal softened flesh
on belly and hip and thigh.

When he rolled onto his back
in the heat-specked grass,
he arched a newspaper above his head
so a sun-mottled shadow,
subtle as the whisper
of the burnout gown, touched his face,
while his flaccid, unclothed body,

merged to a pointillist surface
of flesh and grass and sky:
red, yellow, magenta,
a hundred tints of urgent green.

When the woman shrugged off the gown,
her breast and its azalea scar
were visible as she waited,
singing a shallow song of bias
and painted nails and tender flesh.
Still waiting, she eyed the gown,
now a cloud above green carpet,

and when the man came, not through
the door but as an outline
rising from a carpet transformed
into shagged grass, his skin was
radiant with Seurat's stippled palette.
Though he reached out,
it was to lift up the pewter cloud.

Cradling it, he began to sing a song
of his own, not to her but to the gown,
his voice muffled
as lips crushed its weightless promise.



The Tuscan sky is like a deep inverted bowl.
Pistachios rain down from it and rattle on the roof.
As the dog growls in the tones of her lost lover,
she sees nuts spiral past windows,
smells their salty pink flesh.
Then she and the children run outside,
gather them in their aprons, split them with
their teeth as the dog tromps on the shells.

Dante, she thinks, may have been in Florence
on a day when pistachios rained from the sky.
They weren't pistachios, of course -
more like stones, small crystal-hearted geodes.
Dante could lead her, she thinks, away from stones
onto the 7th ledge where lust is removed
and fiery shades burn with tales of chastity.
Nessun maggior dolore... a disembodied voice

warns as the mirror shows her lover grown old.
Eyeing him, his beard and wild eye, she smashes
the mirror, sure he's brought more than
7 years of bad fortune. Brandishing shards,
she sends him and the children out where
it's raining stones. The grass widow, she says,
peering into a silvered triangle, can dance
with the dog and make stones turn to diamonds.

When the children come home again, leading
their children - eyes shining like pale diamonds -
she will welcome them. They'll spill their
bright young eyes into her apron and wait for her
to open them into the future. Then the mirror
will mend itself, and she, Dante and her lover,
the children, the dog, the stones will whirl
through flames of light into the bowl of the sky.