The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Dana Guthrie Martin’s “(in the space where i was)”


Selection from “(in the space where i was)”


(because while you are sleeping I stand in the hall)
(and wait for your breath)
(and what I mean is I wait for the familiar scent you give off like a flower yielding to hastened decay in the absence of a root system)
(and the scent is sickly sweet in spite of, or because of, the decay)
(and the sweetness rises from my feet)
(and hangs on my skin like mosquito spray)
(and I whisper dear taker of the taken, dear flesh of the fleshless)
(and I cover you in ampersands and et ceteras until you can no longer move)
(and until the weight feels like a rock burial)
(and I want to see how long you will keep breathing)
(and at what point your body will stop being a contagion)
(and I wonder what you will do to me then)
(and how we will negotiate our new physicality)
(and if inside your lungs you have stashed windmills)
(and if those windmills will tear at your internal landscape as they fall)
(and kick up clods)
(and if inside your wrists bailing wire will tighten)
(and hold you in your fighting posture)
(and keep you from flight)
(and how for me, near the end, plate tectonics seemed to govern every suspended organ)
(and they swelled)
(and shifted)
(and competed for limited space)
(and a broken rib or two might have relieved the strain)
(and how would I prepare your body)
(and would I wash your heart in a butter churn)
(and dry it with doilies)
(and preparing a body for burial always feels like preparing a body for burial)
(and after is more like before than you might think)
(and will you recognize me now that I have grafted feathers to every pore which, with a blade’s urging, would accept a quill)
(and your arm slips from the bed)
(and nearly lands on the floor)
(and your fingers spread as if to reveal a precious token you want to show me)
(and there is nothing in your hand but air)
(and perhaps that is what you want me to see)
(and sheets lie about you in surrender)
(and twist around your legs)
(and your skin turns pale on top)
(and plum red underneath)
(and it is as if the sun of your body is setting)
(and now blue is ushered in)
(and would you thank me)
(and how many nights have I heard you beg for this)
(and wail in tongues about how you missed me)
(and I know every language now, even the ones we made up)
(and I know how the long O escapes the throat before we can retract it)
(and that the throat is merely a place to house the O)
(and it is shaped like an O)
(and the teeth hold the throat in place like pincers)
(and you used to open my mouth and pinch my nose)
(and breathe into me until I thought I would explode)
(and the last time you did that I passed out)
(and woke up later alone)
(and the sun had gone down)
(and I could not remember the day)
(and it was then that I realized your name was both noun and verb)
(and you were agent and action)
(and I was acted upon)
(and I balanced on that thought)
(and the sun came up)
(and I realized I had missed it)
(and you returned)
(and said I had nearly killed you)
(and when you breathed back in)
(and my air filled your lungs)
(and you began to convulse, you had all the evidence you needed against me)
(and you had always suspected I was taint)
(and you had hoped you were wrong)
(and I was just like the others)
(and I can’t remember what you said next)
(and I tried to dress)
(and your mouth gnashed as you pulled the ribbon from my corset)
(and ordered me to lead the way to the pasture)
(and I wanted to look back at you)
(and I knew I shouldn’t)
(and I didn’t want you to see my face)
(and I walked slowly like an old barn animal with bad joints)
(and your hand went into my back)
(and I saw the post you had set)
(and you tied me to it)
(and touched me)
(and whistled Wade in the Water)
(and said you were sorry)
(and damned yourself for what you had to do)
(and I raised my hand)
(and you broke it)
(and I sucked my skin where it hurt)
(and the grass underfoot was coarse)
(and itched)

This selection is from Dana Guthrie Martin’s chapbook In the Space Where I Was, available from Hyacinth Girl Press. Purchase your copy here!

Dana Guthrie Martin’s work has appeared in numerous journals, including Barrow Street, Boxcar Poetry Review, Failbetter, Fence, Knockout Literary Magazine, and Vinyl Poetry. Her chapbooks include In the Space Where I Was (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2012), Toward What Is Awful (YesYes Books, 2012), and The Spare Room (Blood Pudding Press, 2009). Dana was recently diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency and thanks all blood and plasma donors for their life-saving donations to those in need.

Mary Stone Dockery is the author of One Last Cigarette, a poetry collection, and the chapbooks Blink Finch and The Dopamine Letters. Her poetry and prose has appeared inStirring: A Literary CollectionGutter EloquenceArts & LettersRedactions, and others. She earned her MFA from the University of Kansas in 2012. Currently, she lives and writes in St. Joseph, MO, where she teaches English at Missouri Western State University and coordinates the First Thursdays Open Mic at Norty’s Bar and Grill.


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