Susan Smith Nash



The night is cold

I'm sleeping in clothes again,

laptop computer at my side --

if I flicker awake at 3 am,

I'll be able to quell my panic

CNN online, ABCNews

the screen becomes the mind

the thought, the consciousness --


Sumgait was a dream until

chemicals soured the births

& tumors & lakes shimmering green


& if the ache rises up in spite of this,

I'll send you an e-mail "hot Hot HOT"

all the while shivering, clicking

over & over & over RETRIEVE "get mail"

just in case, hope against hope,

you're awake, too

at this witching hour --

I say I'm in love

maybe I really believe it, too,

truth is, it's the best I've ever felt;

if I had more sense,

I'd be weeping, not so joyous & free.


I e-mailed you photos of my sister,

supposedly of me, an experiment

to see if you could tell the difference

an image neatly altered

cut & pasted against

magnificent world treasures

neither of us has ever been

all that, to deflect reality

forestall the day of reckoning

the Union collapsing

mile upon mile of factories crumbling

demand gone

redundant  in the blink of an eye

my skin smells of ethylene.


Ten years of nothingness.

whoever thought it would come to this?

at first the talk was all "new alliances,

new opportunities, new futures"

but stuck in old housing

newly crumbling around our ears

I spent a year making love

a block away from where I lost my virginity

flashbacks age 19; an older guy (26) fresh from Vietnam

chainsmoking away the futurelessness

crawling beneath his skin; chemicals bubbling

into some unnamed aquifer where dreams are manufactured

the nights crawl by & down stairs

creaking & dark & lonely


I hear Russian; it is the language

of infinite irony, infinite juxtapositions

like making love when time converges

later? earlier?

a mile away I see me, disassociated

me, watching me be raped

in the dry, toxic grass

sky lurid, reflected in the mudpit

and the rig,

gears grinding as hands

make connections; most roughnecks

are missing fingers;

breezes carrying grit

from lakeshores crusted w/salt

and alien chemicals; mutilation the norm

pure & simple -- the Outsider

takes the best,

leaves the rest to "heal"

& now I call it "making love" and that I "chose"

that evil leprechaun sneer.


I stain the floor with my tears

shower w/bleach & my skin stings

so I refuse to bathe for days;

moral paralysis always feels this way

I miss you

curling twisting into your shell

you protect me;

I crave poppies, poppies fields of poppies

white silence injected into my soul --

cover me with your shell;


my laptop computer next to me in bed

I've flickered awake, it's 3 am

are you there?

I'm taping laminated prayer card

to the case I fear to open,

Our Sacred Lady, Our Hope in Toxic Places

Protect Us, & then I send you this,

my sister cut & pasted

onto a cathedral far away; my heart

adhered to the sky w/petrochemicals;


I tint the door to Hell

with my Red October lipstick

the night is crumbling

about our ears, the voices are cold;

I'm sleeping in clothes again

missing you; heaven & hell converging

I'm on my knees crawling

this dry, toxic grass of memories

Sumgait or wherever I am today

my past tastes like plastic

extruded & molded & shipped in pellets

poured into boxcars to nowhere --

it's three am

I type

Are You There?

my messages floating somewhere

between polymer screens

directed to you,

in transit to God


-- january 26, 2000