Four-Legged Girl: Poems
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Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
"Diane Seuss writes with the intensity of a soothsayer." ―Laura Kasischke
For, having imagined your body one way I found it to be another way, it was yielding,
but only as the Destroying Angel mushroom yields, its softness allied
with its poison, and your legs were not petals or tendrils as I'd believed,
but brazen, the deviant tentacles beneath the underskirt of a secret queen
―from "Oh four-legged girl, it's either you or the ossuary"
In Diane Seuss's Four-Legged Girl, her audacious, hothouse language swerves into pain and rapture, as she recounts a life lived at the edges of containment. Ghostly, sexy, and plaintive, these poems skip to the tune of a jump rope, fill a wishing well with desire and other trinkets, and they remember past lush lives in New York City, in rural Michigan, and in love. In the final poem, she sings of the four-legged girl, the body made strange to itself and to others. This collection establishes Seuss's poetic voice, as rich and emotional as any in contemporary poetry.
mud-colored iris, maybe all that’s left of him in that walnut box, and Keats and his soft brown clothes, and the poets before and after him. But their four-toed emissary sits in my hand. I feel the quickening pulse through its underbelly. Hooded eyes, molasses-tinged, unexpressive, the seam of its mouth glued shut. v. a period’s period Oh, I’m a stone There was no relief from being human and so I turned to stone and now there’s no relief from being a stone. I didn’t choose to be a
stone. Who would choose to be a stone? The stone you pick up on the path to grandma’s house didn’t choose the path of being a stone. Believe me. I should know. I’m a stone. Cold, through and through. Reverend Anne tossed her rosary beads from hand to hand and she said to me you will be cold. She shivered when she spoke it. Those beads were like thick cataracts over muddy eyes. She was a soothsayer. Her shack smelled of roses even though there were no roses in the vicinity. Her
from your Transylvanian kimono For, having beheld your eyes, dull roadside pennies, dull overused thimbles, and your skin, gray as the pattern factory on the gravel-laced riverbank and its two-legged trouser patterns, and the four spit curls snaked against your forehead, your forehead like a mausoleum-dome, upended sugar bowl For, having feasted on your four-holed knickers and your skirt the color of crocus stamens and the silhouette of the witch-boot on your sideways-twisted foot and
stone, I have held hands with an orphaned poplar tree whose leaves chattered like the milk teeth of a kid left for dead in a woven basket. I have held the freckled, sun-burnished face of the lily and stroked her with my palm, my fingerprints overwhelmed by her rusty pollen. Maybe her, maybe the aproned fishmonger, who has held hands with a boning knife and brushed away crushed ice from the cloudy eye and rid the pinkish flesh of pin bones, or no one, for when I was a girl I held my
pregnancy, addiction, Hep C, art, oceans, punk, and later, death, but then, in the present tense, we wandered into Warhol’s Shadows. The image circled us, caped, canvases skirting the room like the bell of a jellyfish, iterative, alliterative, a tolling black echo against the mopped-on yellow and aubergine, chartreuse and indigo. I wasn’t used to color saturation in those days, our clothes, black, our hair, our beans, our three rooms on E. 7th nearly windowless, the roaches, brown, their