the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




NINE WORKS
BY SUSAN TERRIS

THE TAROT FOOL STEPS INTO SPACE

Conventional wisdom says the Fool is male,
but - poised on a promontory ringed
by jagged peaks of ice - she mirrors me,
her knee-length dress, sleeves like dove's wings
riffling with yellow hair in a silent wind.
Feather in her cap and rucksack on a pole,
she waves a white rose in one hand, gazes
beyond white sun into yellow sky, her long legs
and yellow boots keen to dance past the edge.
A manic ghost of a dog, gaze aligned
with hers, jigs at her heels, haunts the margins
of her world. And suspended in the air above:
a mysterious letter O, a benediction
in sunlight that haloes an unrepentant head.

================

SLEEPING SPOONED

Foxglove, heads nodding in the wind,
acknowledges azaleas,
but pinkness shifts to calico sprigged
with baby's breath. Frozen, it recedes,
dissolves to snowflakes.
Then pill bugs agitate, puppet strings
jerk, reanimation begins.

At moments of crisis, details intrude -
a vase off-center on a table,
pictures askew, a wedge of sun isolating
webbed spiders. These moments when
he pulls, I'm drawn toward
baryonicmatter,
the dead spot on a trapeze.

S-curved, I am calm yet wary. Still,
his snore is a B-minor hum, his warmth
hints cream-of-wheat.
In my nose, salt and vinegar when
his leg hair feathers mine.
Then slowly, strings lax as I exhale
daytime motifs, dimunitions

and, pacified by a surrogate heartbeat,
yield them to
retain custody of the night.

================

SECRETS OF THE INNER CORE

We hold green globes in our hands,
bite deep toward the core,
as we try to sweeten
the new year with
mouthfuls of apple and honey.

They say the earth's core
is a planet spinning within a planet,
an iron-centered molten mass
with its own magnetics
and shock waves,
its own internal coordinates.

They say the earth is round,
yet I see it's flat. Drawn toward
the abyss, I sway between
atonement and sin, find nothing
but flatness and edge.
Squinting, I'm aware of
signposts ahead. As others

eat apples and renounce sin,
I try, but my core
keeps reeling. Though words
at the earth's rim warn:
Here there be dragons,
I - lured
by the act of freefall -
step closer to the brink.

================

STARVATION FRUIT

Slim Man say: It edible, but not much taste.
I see it on the tree, on the ground -
a white waxed cone with golden pips.
I know that fruit, for I have
eaten it.

White sand, white sky, and salt
in my eyes,
air thick enough to sit on,
I know the dark side of the moon,
hunt for hot-entrailed boar.
Soon - hungrily - I savage
the raw heart while blood streaks
across my cheek.

Then I conjure Slim Man
and press his sun-stained hand.
Take your isle, I whisper,
and your starvation fruit,
for I am set
to raft with the sirocco,
seeking visions.
I may tender gratuities,
but I shall never look back.

================

TRAPPING FEROCITY IN TWO DIMENSIONS

Last night I stood on the basement stair
feral pigs crouched at my feet
tusks and eyes aglitter.
As spools of light pinwheeled
the darkness,
I walked past, did not glance back
and let them bleed me.

A flat-roofed house
like one I drew as a child
with shuttered windows and red door
gives me room to hide
on the other side of the sheet
behind rectangular flap or
crayoned square
though a match could flame it.

There, when my spirit's strong
I offer nourishment,
a corner to rest their bones,
to placate wildness,
narcotize, letting
me escape while trapping ferocity
in two dimensions.

A sane and sturdy person
in a mad and fragile house
I hold all the keys.
When I leave, I lock the doors,
spatter kerosene,
ignite a ring of bonfires,
a scrolled haze
to neutralize the darkness.

================

THE MAGICIAN'S APPRENTICE

Done with mirrored boxes or silk scarves,
so when I leave, for him, I cease to exist.
Later, he'll wave a want or a wand, conjure me,

and - until the world clamors -
I'll be his dark matter, his sleight-of-hand,

as he reaches out, plucks me again,
says I am his love,
his center, his sudden pearl from the sea

when in truth, I am no more than
his pupil, sometime favorite, occasional trick.

================

CROSSING BRIDGES WITH A JUNGIAN ANALYST

Spanish moss and rain but in this dream, the body is
sloughed off, and a weightless self with an umbrella
crosses the cantilevered span between now and maybe.

Beneath wet moss, a nostril, then another, as alligators
log the surface of the bayou waiting with cottonmouths
for us to slide on pulpy, water-logged planks.

Swamp maples tinge red, and headless turtles hump
in the gloom. Boardwalk and bridges are slick with algae.
Swamp in the rain is still swamp but I'm disembodied,

so alligator teeth hold little threat. What looms
ahead: will-'o-the-wisp of an too-thin Evangeline
in a muddy gown. Or is it my daughter?

The girl, oblivious to rain or reptile, is gathering armfuls
of shirred moss. "For a bed? " I wonder. "Or for what?"
But the Jungian who shares my umbrella is more direct,

"Your daughter- is she still trying to kill herself?"
Aware of slippery bridges, I tilt the umbrella, create
a curtain of hard rain between myself and the ghost girl.

================

HE SAID, SHE SAID

The maze of the unexpected: he said, she said,
who picked up the child from the middle
of the street. In the realm of unlikely events,
what is more unlikely than losing the narrative,
no words to stitch a catastrophe together?
No King's horses or King's men to lament
arrested time and splintered eggshells.
The equations remain too fast, vision skewed,
trajectories misapplied. The child has turned to
white marble. Nothing is linear. Rain has begun
to fall. Periodic orbits-part of a crazed cycle
of time- are weaker now, distorted
by the unexpected drops. No clews, no physicists,
no steady state, no consoling brakes.

================

S.F. GIRL DROWNS AT DAY CAMP

Between today and tomorrow,
the child was spread-eagled under water,
her face a greased blur.

The hauling up, the little wings of hysteria,
the need to unweave time,
dream another tapestry of summer.

Her body a wet outline
with tangled mermaid hair and seaweed crown.
Mouth to mouth, a bitter salt,

short book with an ending that can't be changed.
Happiness is before. It's then. Or yesterday.
The girl has fled, leaving behind only

a doll-shape to tell the tale,
and a bit of spandex and the sapphire ring

on her pinky, its blue stone there to keep a girl
from harm.

Try not to remember. Try to see picnics, water,
and sunset as benign. Try to believe. Try
not to see happily never after.