The Benefits of a Belly
The tune of his favorite song loops hypnotically
through images of a perfect midnight snack.
Feeling an incessant growl from deep inside,
he taps his belly rhythmically with his thumbs,
ruminating over the contents of his refrigerator.
His taste buds quiver with anticipation.
Satisfy the craving.
Contemplating whispers from a city that creeps
with venom on the tattered pavement outside his window,
concealing secrets that teeter on the skin of a sling blade,
he traces circles gently across the expanse of his stomach.
His thoughts are piqued by the silence that settles
like an omen on his fingertips.
Stroke with love only.
When he feels unsteady, balancing on the precipice
of sanity, loneliness sneaking under his skin,
he holds onto his stable center with both hands.
His pulse leaves echoes of determination on his wrists
as he reaches into the back of his throat to find his voice.
Lead with your belly and always have the last word.
I was a child who could fly,
a wisp of bone on the wind.
Dreams delivered me into the clouds,
weightless above the loneliness of
coming in last and failing to be beautiful.
I was a teenager caught on a spark of emptiness,
a witness to lives picked apart by disease.
Nightmares crept under my skin
altering the rhythm of my pulse,
as I watched the memory of laughter
sink into the ground in a bruised casket.
I was 21 and stumbling into catastrophe,
a rage of self-destruction in combat boots.
Nights without sleep led me into the arms
of strangers who fed me lies and shots of whiskey,
elixir for mastering the art of forgetting.
I was 32 and going blind,
chosen at random by a mutation
passed like a dirty secret through the blood.
Darkness crept quietly behind my eyes,
slowly giving me the courage to see.
I was 41, a character in a love story
I believed would never be written.
Comfort soothed the ache of decades
spent searching for fragments of myself,
chipped away by the teeth of loss and grief.
I stepped across a threshold of fear,
closed my eyes, took his hand, and jumped.
late-night correspondence from a cage
i miss you-i feel trapped in this cage-
(my throat is in fragments)
agitation pricks my skin-i haven’t slept in days-
i can’t remember sex-
(i don’t know if i want to)
i think my muse has shriveled up-what the fuck is a muse anyway-
rage seeps through the curtains-i am choking on lost words-
blindness has stolen what lies beneath me-
(what lingers above i can almost taste)
i can’t get the dirt off my skin-discontent stains my eyes-
my hair is brittle-it’s falling out-
the bones in my fingers are tangled-i can’t get the wine open-
expectation pulses on my tongue-
(i am the plaything of catastrophe)
clichés hunt me down sinking roads-
booze grabs at the roots of my sensibilities-
i trudge through darkness-kneel on scraps of hope-
possibility washes over my knuckles-
i remember myself thin and young in a red dress-
(i always wear black)
things are beginning to blur beyond these bars-
(did i tell you i miss you)
Susan Richardson is living, writing, and going blind in Los Angeles. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog, Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in Ink Sweat & Tears, Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, The Writing Disorder, Eunoia Review, Rust + Moth, and Burning House Press, among others. She was awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Poetry Prize for Winter 2017, featured in the Literary Juice Q&A series, and was chosen as Ink Sweat & Tears’ Poet of the Month in March 2018.