Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 49
flower moon, 2023

Featured artwork, Shift VI, by Catherine Skinner

new works

Susan L Leary


Racked by the idea of uselessness, we pass a small riot through a gap in our teeth, the city noticeably at risk of what’s wild in us. In every case of its use, actually is a self-deceiving word. The windows we peer out of are coy today & the spiders, asleep in the eye sockets. What we give over to madness? What we sacrifice to create conditions that might afford us grace? Our hair suffers the wind as our throat suffers the queen. The roof, the implacable jumper. Lucky for us, it takes a combined effort to dispose of a body, more than one limousine driver to get us where we’re going. Muted sounds break through skin, break through lilacs, break through the lid of a wicker casket opening into the earth, my brother’s temper tied behind his back with willow. We’d all be better off if we stopped trying to invent what’s possible. On the internet, all that’s left of my brother, an obituary & a mugshot, which means I’m guilty, never actually prepared to heal.

I Owe a Lot to Those I Do Not Love

—Wisława Szymborska

Which is why the cemetery seems always a suitable subject, as there, someone is listening & light seems always to be moving. You can’t miss it—just past the gazebo, the solitary bat suspended from the chandeliers with the impartiality of an heirloom. I have a bad habit of being skilled in precisely the wrong ways, of existing like a moth in the closet chewing through the arms of a mink coat, of eating alone in the art room. We all want to be a little improbable, a little cold, though inevitably, pity will mistake the stained glass for exit & we’ll think ourselves capable of appearing as fresh nectar poured across the sky.

Rather, there’s a breathing body & a swath of stone, more than enough time to muster the silence & avoid the rough plagiarism of the day. Is prayer not marginally unethical? Why should we be allowed to ask the dead for anything? My father says, keep going. Says, in the uninterruptedness of time, ambition will never leave me. That the atmosphere will straighten my spine & suddenly, I’ll love what I’m built of. We think heaven is an aperture, all of us tumbling like a curious girl in a blue dress down a bluer hole—but then, the rain picks up & the lilies shake. & there it is, your own jaw, breaking open into your softhearted hands.

Susan L. Leary is the author of A Buffet Table Fit for Queens (Small Harbor Publishing, 2023), winner of the Washburn Prize; Contraband Paradise (Main Street Rag, 2021); and the chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple (Finishing Line Press, 2019), finalist for The Heartland Review Press Chapbook Prize and semi-finalist for the Elyse Wolf Prize with Slate Roof Press. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in such places as Superstition Review, Tar River Poetry, Tahoma Literary Review, jmww, Jet Fuel Review, DMQ Review, Cherry Tree, and Pithead Chapel. Recently, she was a finalist for the 16th Mudfish Poetry Prize, judged by Marie Howe. She holds an MFA from the University of Miami, where she also teaches Writing Studies. Visit her at www.susanlleary.com.