Sandra Simonds

from Atopia

       Night is the insane asylum of plants
—Raúl Zurita

Everyone dreams of the apocalypse, they are barfing

into their grief but I, love, dream of you, and I am old enough

to know this is not the apocalypse, and I am well-read

enough to know that all of this was set in motion a long

time ago, plummet of sea shells, the visions loud,

obnoxious even, yes, I tried to ignore them, but to no avail,

the dead workers streamed through my body, out my finger

tips toward the moon’s underlying reality, trumps, keys,

some moved into hysteria then collapsed or perhaps

saw a vision of souls surround black clouds and layers

of breath, to close one’s mind to extraneous events,

life streaming from chambers, music as event and so,

love, I entered the scene before me, as many poets

have walked through the gates, of the imaginative space

I had to create, I like, Dante, Milton, Plath, Hughes

left the body, left the comfort and pain of the body,

and entered the inferno, I entered on the day

of the Oakland fire, when 36 lives were lost, 

one life for each year of my life and put my head to

my knees, whispered, chanted, sang, suggested, 

ripped up the text of my hair, the alephs of my hair,  

my long black hair is a text and I will not cut it, 

and the warehouse went up in its mass, and the body

politic bled down, the dead queers, dead artists, crisscross,

crisis of landlords and evictions, midwinter, I left

this body behind, I had to see, I had to see what

was behind the mirror’s arrangement

of energy, had to see through this parabola. 

“It was a beautiful spring day,”

which is how every horror story begins.

Then lighting struck the wing of my plane

and the light streaked into the hymn

forthcoming, a gothic hymn to jettison

by the River Jordan like the wrapper

around a roast beef sandwich.

The next day, walked to CVS to buy

nail polish, full of those spirits, bent over

the colors, had a nosebleed like in the movies

when everything’s too much for the psychic

and utterly convinced some of the lighting

got stuck inside the cauldron of my head,

and trying to get out of myself, I bled.

Look at the people we have on our side:

Walter Benjamin is on our side

Hannah Arendt is on our side

James Baldwin is on our side

Sandra, they are all dead

They are on our side, Sandra

The other people

the capitalists, who do they have?

They don’t have anyone

All of their ideas are shit

Listen, we have Brecht

I was going crazy

I picked up my phone

I was talking to Maged


Maged is moving from Seattle to

Atlanta to be closer to his son

I dream of the New Jerusalem of love,

an Eden of sparks from the mouth of the rose cult.

The rooster of Midtown cockadoodledoos,

crest shivers Floridian, last bit of cold

in these parts, I am a bold-hearted one. 

Tallahassee on the “Dead Mall” wiki page, 

stock market up, earth crash, crypto-mining

the numeral seven like godhead’s delight.

I smoke and ask my neighbor what he would do

if the government had him on a list of dissidents.

Demon of the windstorm, demon of talons and beaks,

I know you hear everything I sing, two children

huddled together, under the moon, 

baby falling from a chariot, of wolf-light.

What do we make of him? Wander the earth

in search of your brother; brother, what would you do?

And something stupid takes over him,

“Well we are all on a list anyway,” as he slides into

his drunkenness, restoration of the neo-Nazi’s

Twitter account and a 2pm consciousness-raising

session, I wish I was high instead of my body

dragging itself to another action.

First National Women’s Liberation meeting

in Tallahassee, but now I’m drunk, high and smoking

a ton of cigarettes with my neighbor, the one

who saved me from Hurricane Whatever’s 3am rainwater

pouring through the wolf eyed tree holes of the ceiling— 

then a MRSA infection set in. No one knows

why a hurricane reddens

the night sky, no one knows why

the ER doc says, “It’s the dirty water.

It comes from farms, factories, collects

and then dumps down so, here is an IV antibiotic.”

Sat in the ER, cried but called no one,

emotions intensified like a Sabbath.

The handsome nurse talked

about surfing in Costa Rica while

my blood disinfected and outside

the hospital a Ouija board of plants

made a foreign language out of the night.

Man in neon coat walks uphill through the crows.

Reddish glow of the hurricane horizon

creeping towards the heart. Oldest woman

at the meeting talks about 1960 and 61.

“We were organized, we had an action.

They told us what to do and we did it,

then we’d go to jail and it was on to the next

action.” Woke up—eyes puffy as windmills.

Thought of Rotterdam. That fucking Irish poet

who didn’t ask if he could hold my hand,

just grabbed it on the teeth chattering bridge

and then yelled, “We are poets! We are here!”

right into the river. And we walked into the spaceship

I mean hotel and in my room I ordered

a panini and ate it on the white sheets, crumbs

on the white sheets. Mirrors everywhere. 

Rotterdam, the last place I ever felt sexy.

I rise before everyone, kids at their dad’s.

No commotion, rivers of clearing

eucalyptus mist in the aura factory

like pictures of Norway, her glaciated

remove languishes in a think tank

of food security, how I want that kind of coldness,

to be surrounded by a swarm of bears

or love affair so north of here, but the winds

shoved into the stone mouths of lions,

their rhymes were tourniquets of counterfeit ideas. 

And Rotterdam standing like an inquisition

of ships sloshing the metallic waters.


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Author Bio

Sandra Simonds is the author of six books of poetry: Orlando, (Wave Books, forthcoming in 2018), Further Problems with Pleasure, Winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize from the University of Akron Press, Steal It Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Blood Books, 2014), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012), and Warsaw Bikini (Blood Books, 2009). Her poems have been published in the New York Times, The Best American Poetry 2015 and 2014 and have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Chicago Review, Granta, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Fence, Court Green, and Lana Turner. In 2013, she won a Readers’ Choice Award for her Sonnet “Red Wand,” which was published on Poets.Org, The Academy of American Poets Website. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and is an associate professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.