The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Sheila Squillante’s “Beautiful Nerve”

Squillante Pic

On Absence

White cotton squares threaded with color and light.
Soft wood rolling between fingers.
Three breeze-blown blessings.

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The promise of cows in a deep green field.
A black rat snake swallowing on dark gravel.
The muscle of anticipation.

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The shifting of public language on highway signs.
That there is such a thing as a public language.
Threshold and gesture; white and field-green.

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The use of second person as a whisper,
or embrace. The use of myth to create
emotional distance. A frame.

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The juxtaposition of voices, of people
talking over each other.
An approximation. A stand-in.

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Singing in a low key in the car, the proper range for this voice.
The skin’s disintegration at night.
The sound of a train out of sight.

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How easy it is to forget time zones,
how hard it is
to suppress yearning.

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The way green plastic beads shimmer
in the sun, creating the shape,
the animal suggestion among us.


This selection comes from Sheila Squillante’s book Beautiful Nerve, available now from Tiny Hardcore Press. Purchase your copy here!

Sheila Squillante is a poet and essayist living in Pittsburgh. Author of BEAUTIFUL NERVE as well as three chapbooks of poetry, her work has appeared in journals like Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Phoebe, The Bakery, Thrush Poetry Journal and elsewhere. She teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University, where she also serves as editor-in-chief of The Fourth River.

Ben McClendon is a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Tennessee. He previously studied poetry at Northern Arizona University after teaching high school English for several years. His poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Yemassee, Cæsura, Chariton Review, Redivider, Rattle, and elsewhere. He is currently Assistant Poetry Editor for Grist: The Journal for Writers and a poetry editor for Four Ties Lit Review. Ben lives with his husband in Knoxville.

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