Poems by Sarah Marcus

When A Child Loves You

Real isn’t how you are made, said the Skin Horse.
She won’t fuck in the back of his car.
He drives, she unfastens her seatbelt, hand on
handle—the slow click of open—he accelerates,
she makes herself small, prepares to roll.
It’s a thing that happens to you—


When a child loves you for a long, long time.
They are supposed to meet at the goodbye place
and she doesn’t show—
Not just to play with, but REALLY loves you.
She makes scars high up on her inner thigh,
thin white lines, rows of them,
the small cuts she made with a broken
light bulb in the barn—She lies
awake with all those stones, hears his voice,
saying touch me there—
A broken system of sentences—

Then you become Real.


Does it hurt? asked the Rabbit.
She watches the birds in the rafters making nests,
places her hands on the wooden panels,
feels the vibrations of the horses.
Sometimes, said the Skin Horse.

He leans against the stall door and reaches
for her hair as she backs away into the soft coat
of her thoroughbred. When you are Real
you don’t mind being hurt.


You become. It takes a long time.
She is with the horses
and he is walking towards her. That’s why.
Walking, looking. Her fingers clench lead line—
It doesn’t happen to people who break easily.
Twine cuts into skin, muscles cramp, marks
show departure—

Or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

She’s looking to get out through the gate,
wary of the electric fence,
she’s been pushed against it before—
By the time you are Real, most of your hair
has been loved off.


She is ready for forgiveness,
so she asks him what he wants,
what home should be like— (your eyes drop out
and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.)
And he says, like home.
But these things don’t matter at all.
And she says, no, how should it feel?
Because once you are Real you can’t be ugly—
I don’t know, I don’t know, he says—
except to people who don’t understand.



for Michelle


His sister,
who hates the name Sarah,
says all the worst people
are named Sarah.


Sarah cried and laughed Isaac into this place
and before that she said, go to my maid Hagar,
and something about knees. Said she’s sick
of this desert, all the sandy mouths spitting.
The sand where she leaves her womb—
and wolves come to tear it up.
One wolf has Sarah’s arm.
Hagar watches from a safe distance.


Sister sounds like Los Angeles,
You, my sweet little sister, the fault lines.
Sister, did you know I had an earthquake
in Virginia—Virginia sounds like the sister
I wanted to be, sounds like sister the meth
made me mean, sister, I held you
against the wall, sister choking, sister we were
so young. A sister protects a sister who cut her up,
cut her straight through until the windows
were all closed that night, sister like smoking,
like I’m yellow for you still.


Sarah who crawls on her belly for the abortion,
in the name of him, and sick, because Sarah is how
we have sons. Our sons who hold us down.
Who cover our mouths. Who tear open our legs.


And, like a strong sister, you do it without me,
and you are the daughter-sister, and I am
the daughter, sister and you are the one who knew
about all the blankets, the water, wetting his lips,
the hospital waiting sister. Then, the graceful sister,
while this awkward sister sat cramped in the difficult
window frame watching you, sweet sister,
sweet woman holding the people who need holding—


She was taken to the house of her husband
to consummate the marriage.
Between one and the other,
the sin was committed.
Deuteronomy prescribes that a woman who lies
about her virginity must be brought to the door
of her father’s house. Here, the men of her city
will stone her with stones that she die.
This is a disgraceful sister. Harlot in her father’s house,
Israel’s whore, they put evil away from among you.


Somewhere the sinking creek loses
its water. Follow it to the lost river.
We will switchback through the pines
until we fold in on ourselves,
until our curves are deep enough for swimming.


A sister says:
Sarah, it was winter,
a snow bridge and the sister sweater,
that some sister stole,
whose sweater?
Whose breasts are these?
They are found in the shallows,
the slackwater where
a stagnant sister stands.
It was the slickrock that took
her, spread over the place,
holding us together.
An altitudinal snow line crossed us
where something died.
Sister, in the bottom of a starved basin.
Sister, this stillwater is for you.


Sarah Marcus is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at George Mason University, where she is an English faculty member. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spork, Cimarron Review, Tidal Basin Review, Cold Mountain Review, Tawdry Bawdry, and Slipstream. She was named a finalist for the Iron Horse 2011 Competition in Poetry, and a top 25 finalist in Glimmer Train’s 2010 Short Story competition. Originally from Cleveland, OH, she resides in Fairfax, VA.




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