Devil’s Lake

Spring 2013 Issue

Winner of the Driftless Prize in Poetry Learn more >

Safiya Sinclair: Woman, Wound

Spackled yolk this morning.

The dawn a moth-plague

called down.

Salt, old hair. Sweat.

Sprawled across the floor

in thick nets, body a slack

tangle. Newsflash of neon

in the windowpane—

Woman come undone.

Scales withering

in the heater hum, lips cracked

despite the pomegranate.

What myth. Sweet allegory ungifted.

What bitter vision tides the mouth.

The heart’s shuttered stem,

blue-veined with drought.

December drinks itself to silence.

And even God in his thick brocade

has cast me out.

Frayed bosom taken out to trash.

Legs thrown to rust. The damp craw

of bougainvillea sewn shut.

Could I open wide

the sore uvula, browned with age,

to find the whole day used-up,

throat-white with wonderment

at what had passed? That he

was a reptile, vile enough,

scavenging at the gash—

but for a sticker with the shelf life

he offered cash. Black teeth,

black heart. Black vice.

Ruin comes at any price.

A livewire of birds, the whole sky

ripped out. Woman, wound,

dragging the star of archangels,

unwheels in midair, stoking

the white-hot clamorous oxides,

charging ions, charging

white bulls into spring.

Notes on the State of Virginia, I

Child of the colonies. Carrying the swift waves of oceans inside of you. The wide dark of centuries, the whole world plunged down, sewn through the needle’s eye, the old crow’s glisten in your gullet. Eyes beetling through black. You wear your mother’s face in the mirror. Your mouth closed around all those pills like teeth, each one so heavy your tongue falls numb. Think of your friend who only wanted you to find sleep, whose face asked you not to choose the worst. Dull wretch, slack-jaw orphan, you always feel sorry for yourself. And swallow each capsule like the last pearl your grandfather pressed down into your palm. How he had dived three whole days for it. Your grandfather who loved you but could not say it. All the men who love you and cannot say it. Jamaica, old fur sticking to the roof of my mouth, the one long dream that holds me underwater, black centipede I still teethe on. Ruined train clattering through my track. Here, I could come up for air. Here, I could wake to a name I can answer to. Where Thomas Jefferson learnt how to belittle a thing. How to own it. He created the word and wanted my mouth to know it. He wanted the whole world pulled through me on a fishing string. Where I will find my fingers in the muscle of my throat, where I will marvel at the body asking to live.

a photo of the author, Safiya Sinclair SAFIYA SINCLAIR was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and received her MFA in poetry at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Catacombs, a chapbook of essays and poetry, published by Argos Books. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, The Journal, The Atlas Review, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of a writing fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Amy Clampitt Residency Award, an Emerging Writer Fellowship from Aspen Summer Words, and an Academy of American Poets Prize; she has won the 2013 Devil’s Lake Driftless Prize in Poetry and The Journal’s Annual Poetry Contest in 2013. She is currently pursuing a PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California, where she is a Dornsife Doctoral Fellow. More from this issue >