“Oh! Thought Clarissa, in the middle of my party, here’s death.” Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.
Here’s death sliding down the banisters wiping clean the fingerprints of my distinguished houseguests I feel it in my feet, a burning spreading to a flush that Richard says he likes (“the party’s so exciting isn’t it?”) and runs his hand across my cheek. It’s cold, I know, because my skirt is in a burst of flame and in my head a skull’s split open on the pavement a military man, fallen, from an open window, not fallen, no, he jumped. Slipped through that final threshold, now a bloody splatter.
If I had died that moment, when Sally smiled, dressed in white, I would have gone, blown lightly out, a candle’s final puff of smoke I’d have had that one last sizzle, But he, like a discarded coin, hit the fountain bottom soundless.
Here they speak of death, their voices pick up from one another, carrying that single flower petal, dancing through the chairs and plates of food until it falls fast, landing in the corner. Now they speak of hat boxes and perfume and newly published books, how lovely the weather was today. The banister is gleaming at me, almost winking, “Here’s death,” it says to me.
“The world was clamouring: Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes.” Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
How might one set about it? All the pebbles on the walkways chant in tiny voices, tugging on my brain with crab-like pincers edging close to egg me on. The eggs gleam their stark fresh shine, but not even the chickens tell me how to do it. Dew drops on the carpet, tracks from military boots, with voices sharp as crystal shards.
I’m at the base now, in the kitchen, but my wife is here with me instead of the boys. She’s saying something, but I can only hear the butter knives in the drawers, their iridescent clinking, sliding on the wood. How might I stop the clamouring? The doctor tells me “rest” while our worn blankets and the peeling wallpaper hiss their rhythmic mantra. But how would I?
Of all the screaming objects in this house, none will tell me how our knives that barely cut tough grinds of meat, in my weak hands might obliterate me, explode me like a thousand starlights. Or maybe a gaspipe through my lungs, filling me with poison, air that’s fit for me. The doctor doles my pills, so even they can’t save me.
And yet, the air is warm coming through the half-cracked window. And I sit there, tasting the sun and open the window a bit farther. And that, my God, is how.
~Septimus Warren Smith
-- Cara Peterhansel is a 22 year-old female poet from Connecticut and a recent graduate of Union College. She is currently living in Western Massachusetts, working as a Preschool Assistant Teacher. This is Cara's first publication.