September 29, 2021

Alison Luterman

INSATIABLE

He said it like it was a good thing,
and it did sound better in Spanish: 
“In-sat-see-ah-blay.”
I took it as a compliment
as we twisted together like eels
in the dampened sheets,
but decades later the term haunts me.
To have such a pool of want inside 
is a weird desolation. Afterwards, 
there was still the ache.
The ache was how I knew
myself to be alive, but it repelled
unwary swimmers who ventured
out beyond the buoy lines, and I
don’t blame them—it repelled me too, 
although I was harbor and hothouse,
incubator and incubus
to the ancient reptile self, 
sea-creature of horror movie fame 
who ate and gorged and writhed
and somewhere in my gut is twisting still,
though thickened with age now, barnacled,
monstrous—at bottom, as I said,
where our small vanities, once planted
carelessly, grow—there’s the Void. 
And now, after The Thing
has eaten and eaten its fill, and swallowed
whole decades in its gaping maw,
I come to reckon with history, and how
people with white skin have gobbled
brown bodies, continents, goods—
and I know I wasn’t there
at the theft of the Americas,
but I’m here, now, 
treading with unlawful feet
over sacred ground, asking even the trees
for solace and wisdom. Being trees
they don’t refuse. They tell me I’m a child 
in a prison of my own making: 
avidity and ignorance. Let’s not
call it darkness, because darkness
is fertile. And this is blank. Nothing 
for it then but to allow
myself to be swallowed whole.
And know:
this giant sea-slug, pale imitation 
of desire’s sweet hurrah, this thing
I long deplored in all of you—
I look inside, and lo, it’s in me too.

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021

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Alison Luterman: “I write poems, eavesdrop, loiter, teach, and pull weeds, in no particular order.” (web)

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