Feast Days by Suzannah Russ Spaar
I trail a branch like a tail
to see if something follows.
I don’t think of him anymore—
he’s missed the line
and now makes a home from clots. Mine
is a slow walk. If he’s found
my path, he’ll have forgotten it is mine;
set up camp, let iodine in
to my water and dig a hole to shit in.
Thanksgiving, last, I drive to a convent
of nuns who make gouda
the way their mothers
learned, the curdled, thinned
whey. That morning, full
of salt, I watched boys clump
on the curb of frat row,
duffel bags stained and stuffed,
grease puddled below their
folks’ Civics like drool on a pillow,
the houses exhaling, left defaced—
no, riddled—with aluminum,
crushed boxwood and sign,
half legible: MEN OF HONOR DO NOT;
one December, my dad played a Formal
for a house here riddled with alums—
drunk, wintery men (snow white and rose red).
When finished, my dad passed
a ring of brothers beating a plastic
Santa with yardstick candy canes,
taking turns whacking off
paint from Santa’s face. My father
carried his double bass in one arm,
dented Santa in the other.
He came home a three
headed silhouette. It is easier
to recognize the puncture in plastic.
Dad says, “Am I just lucky then?
That I don’t know
any women who were raped?”
Thinks one of five is too much.
Is sure of it. I am sent
out to buy cheese for the feast
next week. I gather speed,
shift gears. The blur of country
(plantation homes, hunt clubs,
trailer parks wreathed in evergreen)
ends at the convent.
I take a beat
at the wheel, watch the nuns out front
in black and white, a mirror
of horizon. Come spring they won’t
turn green again. Come spring
those boys will demand
a concession. For their damage
to succeed. The nuns mill about.
The whimples flash
like animal hinds, unprimed.
I wonder if they have names
they’d call their daughters,
sounds they rolled
in their mouths as girls.
Alexis, Oksana: pet names,
now. They do not repent.
The dogs trail the sisters through the yard.
Sisters do not trip or stop their walk.
They side-step, retract, reach to touch
a wet head, to open the door
as I pull in. They do not speak
or feel to find the other.
They do so without looking up.
Suzannah Russ Spaar is a poet living in Pittsburgh where she is an MFA candidate in poetry. Born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, she values a good ghost tour. Currently, she serves as a contributing editor for Aster(ix) Journal and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.