Lisa Sewell

Invisible Cities (2002)

Deep in the canyons, low in the canyons

where thunder presses the undersides


of rock, most of the water pillows white

against the granite face but enough


disappears to unmake and take you

from your blue trusty boat, from beside;


against; between; and through to under,

and underneath, though you completed


each sentence with the correct preposition,

keeping your eyes on the horizon’s eye,


not the undercuts or rock sieves,

in the melancholy and relief of knowing


you shall soon give up any thought

of knowing and understanding them.


For the river smacks your hesitate

and didn’t see and shows you something


altogether rocky bottom murky green

and if no head down, hip snap, twisting glide


of torso turns you over, you are trapped

and moving in the noisome river silence.


Try not to think thoughts no one should think

where her thoughts went and when she knew


for certain. Let all the muscles of the spine

memory and remember the turning over,


not the under and the underneath, not bronchioles

unbranching in the lungs, alveoli


bursting shut or her blood beating gasps

and sentences into a shuttered brain


where thunder presses and the water

bellows white, low in the canyons


of a city where the buildings have spiral

staircases encrusted with spiral seashells,


in the inside of disappear, the un-

wind of underneath and down there.


for Dale Herrick

On the Natural History of Destruction (2011)

A pair of shoes my father wants to walk in:

smooth soles, smooth insoles, adjustable


for feet swollen and distorted, each toe

a pink scaly balloon of hurts me.


Forty warm minutes in the warming sun,

salt air masking the scent of shame and hiding—


the need to know at odds with a desire

to close down the senses.


Two secret drops of morphine in his tea

for the everywhere pain he says he’ll weather


and the bleak depression that refuses to lift.


Night is an ocean that always arrives to rattle

and drown. In the under rustling and climbing moans


in the dangerous confusion, he sleeps

at the very mattress edge of disaster


facing the catastrophe that was taking place

with silent fascination


pillow abandoned to the bed and to the creature

whose webbed wings weight the sheets and blankets.


Back of the nightstand, the iron sedative

purchased in Chicago in 1948:


its handle inlaid with mother of pearl

its Russian-roulette rotating chamber agape.


The neoprene pouch is open too—

one bullet rolls free, resounding in the drawer.

Lisa Sewell

<em>Edit Poetry</em> Lisa Sewell

Lisa Sewell is the author of The Way Out, Name Withheld and Long Corridor, which won the 2009 Keystone Chapbook Award. She is also co-editor with Claudia Rankine of American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics and Eleven More American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Poetics Across North America, which is just out from Wesleyan University Press. She lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Villanova University.