Weekly Feature: Poetry at The Arts Fuse

Welcome to “Poetry at The Arts Fuse.” A new poem every Thursday.


All my poems used to end in sky


but now they end in sleep,

not sex, which, like looking at the sky

can be a way of moving farther and farther

away from yourself before you come

back down. But sleep is a going in

or back to what you aren’t sure

you remember or ever want to see again.

When his older sister moved to her own room,

our son refused to sleep in his,

called it the room where nightmares happen.

This his first real loss, or the first he understood—

last year’s burial of the cat out back

having mainly been an occasion for song

and shoveling—but this lack

of breath and sister scent drifting down

from the upper bunk—unbearable.

His whole life, he’d never had to go alone

into the dark, and why do we do this to ourselves,

when even lightning pairs its brief ecstatic fling

with thunder? The very nature of materiality

is entanglement, says the physicist, Karen Barad.

But I was talking about sex, which,

having been raised by Catholics,

I know full well is something one must do

but not discuss, and definitely not ask for,

even on the first hot day in June,

when your husband comes in from the garden

smelling like the tomatoes he’s just planted

and sweat and dirt and whatever primitive

chemical you first scented years ago

in a dim cinderblock dorm room,

and both kids are out of the house

and there is the kitchen table bare

before you. Dont do it! my mother said

when I was twelve and she’d just walked in

from her job as a school nurse, having read

the second positive pregnancy test

from the second thirteen-year-old that week.

End of conversation.

Then, when I was twenty-eight, married, childless,

and in grad school, she gave me silk sheets

for Christmas. Just before she died, my granny

confided that grandad had been a demon in the sheets!

I hope that made up for twenty-two years

of pregnancies and sixteen births,

not all of them live.

Barad tells us the other is not

just in one’s skin, but in one’s bones.

And I know that even after birth, traces

of the child remain within the mother—

cellular echoes tinseled in the tissue.

So when our son was afraid to be alone,

we let him back into our parent bed nest,

where, cell by cell, he’d first learned how to sleep

inside of me. But each night, after he drifted

off, you carefully lifted him back

to his own room and then returned to me,

so we could not-speak together for a little while,

before we took our separate ways to sleep.


Anna V. Q. Ross’s most recent book, Flutter, Kick, won the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press and the Julia Ward Howe Award in Poetry. A Fulbright Scholar, Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow, and poetry editor for Salamander, her work appears in The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, The Missouri Review, The Nation, and elsewhere.

Note: Hey poets! We seek submissions of excellent poetry from across the length and breadth of contemporary poetics. See submission guidelines here. The arbiter of the feature is the magazine’s poetry editor, John Mulrooney.

Arts Fuse editor Bill Marx

1 Comment

  1. Emily Berg on November 10, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    That is beautiful.

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