In Their Own Words

Sara Nicholson's “The Art of Symmetry”

The Art of Symmetrys

I find myself in
a room w/ antiques
shaking out the leaves
from a bag of jewels
Bored, I pick up
a sentimental novel
without illustrations
The hero, the author
says is a lamplighter
The heroine, she sits w/
the auld moon in hir arms
My one travail being
to write my verses
To look at the sky
in the morning and know
the finches have no access
to direct deposit
They cash their checks
at the advent of spring

Sequester all your pity
for the blue flowers
for they don't deserve it
Donate your antibodies
to the not-so-poor
Love's as intoxicating
as a Mastercard
and the sight of mayflies
in the evening gives
credence to our faith
If little blue flowers
are a niche interest
so are literary genres
I've been told
I appear a scholar
in my gold lamé

What you need are
blouses, ribbons, a hat
to doll your verse up
If the weather's oblique
take yourself indoors
While we hash out
the details, I daresay
mæg ic be me sylfum
soðgied wrecan
A song rings false
when the heart's
not "in it"
But how can songs
be trusted if the liar
is, well, me?

Birds who disappear
behind the Wal-Mart
no more embody our
material desires
than that hyacinth
and/or burrito
I see them eyeing
over there in the trash
Ere I crawled along
this parapet, in search
of a language
that could give voice
to the marvelous, I
understood the gist
of imported fabrics
For the first time
I knew fear

My skirts, of doubtful
authenticity, get caught
in the branches of
someone else's woods
A twig is all that's left
of social media
My laptop shushes the awe
that others feel when
they look at the sky
I know no songs
or dances, just this opera
of the plague years
Other people
cultivate their gardens
I try to think of another
spelling of auto-da-fé

From The Living Method (The Song Cave, 2014). Reprinted with the permission of the author.

On "The Art of Symmetry"

When I think of this poem, I think of Math. I mean "Math uab Mathonwy," the fourth branch of the collection of Middle Welsh prose stories known as the Mabinogion. I wrote this poem after reading it.

In the story, two sorcerers—Math and Gwydion—conjure a woman out of flowers and name her Blodeuedd. Just so, there is something in "The Art of Symmetry" that tries to reanimate a feminine form—part of this involved my dressing up in historical drag (blouses, ribbons, gold lamé, etc). When I walk out in the real world, I feel myself some kind of blob or weighted haunch that strangers seem to recognize as female. But when I write, especially without punctuation, for whatever reason, I get all girly. I like this. I like that this poem, unlike most others in the book, lacks almost all punctution. And when writing it, I couldn't shake the idea that this poem was my Blodeuedd. Blodeuedd being exactly like Frankenstein's monster, only hotter, and made not out of corpses but of oak, broom, and meadowsweet blossoms.

Earlier in the story, we learn that King Math can only survive if he rests his feet in a virgin's lap. This begs the question: what would happen to your feet if you rested them in a sexually-active lap? Or if you nestled one foot in a virgin crotch and the other in a slutty one? My poem does not try to answer these questions. Or does it? What I was most interested in here, after all, was the pushing together of things we typically conceive of as opposed, but which are always found together in the real world (love and Mastercards, birds and Wal-Mart). Like Blodeuedd. Lol.

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