landscape

“Landscape”, “The Book of Minutes” and “War”

by Teresa Sutton

Landscape

You can’t trust what you see

in the mottled blue and violet

around a black eye.

Real monsters are the ones

we don’t recognize at first.


Born at the crossroads

of metaphor and landscape,

where monstrous tales are made

and maintained, they appear

in their many forms and disguises


just when you think

you’ve already cried over everything

with a bit of blue tangled around it.

The landscape of otherness

is full of deviance and the blue


veins make the future seem grim.

The horizon that bisects

the painting you’ve worked so long on

dries to hues of blue no matter

how bright the yellows you’ve tried


to layer on top.

Monsters do much work

as they dish out heaps

of uncertainties to rattle our mettle.

Coping with monsters dulls the cobalt


of antique vases casting jewel-like

splotches on your white walls

to dull gray.

Though monsters always return

to trouble our dreams,


there’s azure, denim, ultramarine—

these can be merged

to paint the bluest

of blue moons in the night sky.

The Book of Minutes

Day 1: Trying to swallow


5:29 a.m.

You can’t trust what you see

in the mottled blue and violet

around a black eye.

I sleep through the sustained

peacock blue of two alarm clocks.

It’s worse the older I get.

First pill of the day

is ice blue. It melts

on my tongue into the moment

between no and the concoction

of the story I will tell

anyone who asks.

Real monsters are the ones

we don’t recognize at first.

My head is heavy

and outside it’s pitch black.


7:38 a.m.

Just when I think I’ve already cried

over everything

with a bit of blue tangled around it,

the dog jumps down from the bed,

no longer able to wait

to relieve himself.

I follow him out of the bedroom

to the crossroads of metaphor

and landscape, where monstrous

tales are made and maintained

in their many forms and disguises.

My head feels muzzy, heavy.


11:01 a.m.

More medicine.

8 pills this time.

The blue veins make the future

seem grim.


9:05 p.m.

Another night full of otherness

seen against a backdrop

full of deviance and exhaustion.

4 more pills.


Day 2: The body’s nest


5:27 a.m.

No matter how bright the yellows

I’ve tried to layer on top,

the horizon I keep repainting

dries to hues of blue and green,

dull and unremarkable.

First pill of the day:

the thyroid blue uptakes

into the circulatory system,

which is a closed scheme.

It never stops.

Blood loops through lungs,

diffuses through blood

vessels, branches

through veins.


5:39 a.m.

I sleep longer

While outdoors the tints

of blue lighten to the true value

of morning as the blackness recedes.

Again. I keep sleeping.

My heart is weaker.

My chest is tight.

Sometimes it burns,

like now.


1:23 p.m.

I read that Edward Hirsch

when he wrote his book,

Gabriel, about losing his son,

wrote for several hours

a day. He wrote a journal

not intended to be published.

Later he took four months

to turn his journal

into one long poem.


8:24 p.m.

Crying. Again.

Thinking of waking up early

and heading to work.

It’s getting so hard to do.


Day 3: Life-size guides


9:43 a.m.

Driving 65 mph past trees

letting go of their snow.

Clumps of flakes melt

slightly and drop

through branches

picking up more flakes

along the way.


4:55 p.m.

Doctor appointment rating:

only 1 star.

Crying as I drive home.

A dying heart.

New meds should

make me feel better.


6:21 p.m.

Inside my brain something

presses down.

Neurological things

are happening

Ten seconds of

praise but not to the body.

Seven seconds of

criticism of the lymphatic

system.


9:05 p.m.

6 pills.

Coping with monsters dulls the cobalt

of antique vases casting jewel-like

splotches on your white walls

to dull gray.


Day 4: Shadowboxes


5:28 a.m.

Praise to everything

In the world.

Praise to everything

In boxes.

Praise to shadows.

Praise to night lights.

1 pill.


7:48 a.m.

Steady rain.

Liberty blue washes

the distance and feels

empty without a field of stars

to light it up.

Sleeping late. Again.

Later I’ll write

letter after letter

to give in to the details

and to give up on facts.


12:14 p.m.

Exile.

12 midday pills now.

Monsters do much work

as they dish out heaps

of uncertainties to rattle our mettle.


9:10 p.m.

My head is heavy.

6 pills.

Though monsters always return

to trouble our dreams,

there’s azure, denim, ultramarine—

these can be merged

to paint the bluest

of blue moons in the night sky.

War

Failing to understand what he’s losing, my father shivers

in his hospital bed fantasizing in the silence of his dementia

that a war is getting underway in the corridor.

Are there blankets out there? he asks.

His blankets are kicked to the floor and I tell him yes as I cover him.


I pull the lid from a tiny bowl filled with bits of sugared peaches

and hand him a spoon. These taste nothing like the sweet peaches

that we plucked each July from our tree in the yard—

sun warmed flesh and nectar.

Grocery store peaches have yellow flesh and an acid tang.

Inside each pit is always a small speck of cyanide.

His eyes close as he chews. I imagine that he is imagining

juice dribbling down his chin onto fresh mown grass.


He starts to shake and throws the blankets off again.

Do you think they’ll come in here? The blankets?

Are they gathering together in the hallway to come against us?


War is a card game we played at a picnic table beside the peach tree.

War is his Air Force years during the Korean Conflict.


He points to the IV bag.

I can't talk right. I think they put something in there

to make me not talk. What's in there?

Why are my feet so cold?

I cover his feet. They are ice cold through the blankets.

I scoop some peach chunks into the spoon and feed him.


A lot of people were murdered here, he says.

I ask, Where? Here in Poughkeepsie?

He says, Oh, we're in Poughkeepsie?

I say, Where were the people murdered?

He says he doesn’t remember the name of the city.

I ask him if they caught the bad guys.

He says, yes.

Good, I answer.


Those summers with too much rain left small holes

in the peaches, leaves, and twigs, destroying them.


A nurse shaves his face today. It reminds me of peach fuzz

and of last month when his beard was long and grizzled.

Lewy-Body Dementia has left his brain full of lesions,

areas of atrophy, and holes, where memories fall through.


In his final years, peaches fell to the ground

leaving a pile of rotten fruit untended around the old trunk.


War is brown rot and fungus that ruins crops of peaches.

War is dementia. Every day.

War is an imagined army of hostile blankets.

About the Author

Teresa Sutton

Website

Teresa Sutton is a poet and a teacher. She has taught at Marist College for ten years and high school English for 28 years. She lives in Poughkeepsie, NY and has two grown children. Her third chapbook, "Breaking Newton's Laws," won 1st place in the Encircle Publication 2017 Chapbook Competition; it was a top-12 finalist in the 2015 Indian Paintbrush Chapbook Competition, a finalist in the 2016 Minerva Rising Chapbook Competition, and earned an honorable mention in the 2015 Concrete Wolf Poetry Chapbook Competition. One of the poems in the collection, "Dementia," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The final poem of the book, "Confiteor 2," was honored with second prize in the 2018 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry by Alternating Current. Her second chapbook, "Ossory Wolves," was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2016; it was a finalist in the 2014 Bright Hill Press' Poetry Chapbook Competition. Her first chapbook, “They’re Gone,” was published in 2012 by The Finishing Line Press. The Poet's Billow recognized her work as a finalist in the 2015 Pangaea Prize and a semi-finalist in the 2014 Atlantis Award. The Cultural Center of Cape Cod recognized her work as a finalist in their 2014 National Poetry Competition.Two of her poems won honorable mention in other poetry competitions: Whispering Prairie Press and California State Poetry Society. Her poems appear in a number of literary journals including Stone Canoe, Fourteen Hills, and Solstice. She earned her MFA from Solstice Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College. She has a MA in literature from Western Connecticut State University and a MS in education from SUNY New Paltz. She earned her BA in English from SUNY Albany.