“Anhedonic Woman” by Alison Carb Sussman

Alison Carb Sussman


after Mark Strand and Louise Glück

I never want to suffer for love. I never want to put on a red dress
and have you tell me how incredible I look. Give me only a companion,
so I don’t have to bother with the stink of sex,
or crash through strange bedrooms and wake up naked
in bathtubs in the middle of the night with stupid blue lights
shining in my eyes. Give me stiff straight hair, caught in a bubble
of hairspray, so it never blows in the wind but remains like
a trapezoid. Give me sachets so the drawers always smell of stale
decapitated roses. Give me the evillest wood-backed chair,
one that forces my body ramrod straight
like a medieval torture device. I want the itchiest sweater,
one that makes me scratch like mad. To hell with soft runny cheeses,
oozing chocolate cakes, and moisturizing creams; give me hard
cheeses, Pisco sours, and flaking skin. To hell with corded muscles,
long flax hair, and screaming children, I want the world trussed
inside cabinets and boxes, pristine and preserved
like a Joseph Cornell miniature, not a world where everything
is jammed up against everything else like flotsam in the sea.
I don’t want the howl of a wolf or the pulsing luminescence of the moon.
I want Pluto, cold and still. I want to be submerged in the Underworld
where it’s dark and cool, where I can put on my night vision goggles.
I want you to tell me I look like a scarecrow. I want to frighten
all the birds away in a field that is the absence of field. I never want
to touch you at night but to lie still and stiff beside you and listen
to your breathing and know that I’m a zombie and I can’t touch you.
I want to hold back and hold back and hold back until I’m sick inside
and withered like an old leather shoe. I want to cut my food into tiny
morsels and only eat a crumb at a time until my body shrinks to nil.
I want the stars. They ask for nothing and give nothing in return.

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016


Alison Carb Sussman: “When I was younger, under the supervision of a psychiatrist, I took a drug which made me lose weight without stopping. I soon became so thin I knew it was just a matter of time before I entered a hospital. What did I do? I grabbed my Emily Dickinson and started reading furiously. I started scribbling poetry in my pad, too. I thought I was going to die, and my first thought was to console myself with poetry.” (website)

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