Two Poems by Sara Henning

Picaresque with Lady Day and the Last Bad Lover Man

She loved her gin 
	like she loved 
to roll the tonic 
of velveteen burn 
	in her mouth.  

Clench it there,
	until mourning doves,
stifled and  livid, 
 swarmed. I look for them 
	in the corners

of my kitchen— 
	supple loiterers,  
radio-stained and insatiable.
They canvas the tile
	for crumbs.  

I’m pouring 
	another dove 
on the rocks, 
swallowing the tincture 
	of my no-good man 

like Lady’s working 
	her hex’s slurred 
legato. I like him culled 
from the bottom 
	of the bottle 

so I can milk 
	his swank 
and swagger for hours, 
so he’ll linger 
	in my lingerie 

like the last bruise
	he’ll ever leave 
on my body, all swindle, 
all storm. I want to be 
	the woman 

with timbre 
	like a razor 
concealed in my stockings, 
that woman who’ll wear
	a dirge 

slung low and tight
	-fitting, rich and musky, 
so there’s nothing 
but threat after threat 
	of gardenia.


I’m ten, it’s June, 
and already the peacocks 
are screaming. 

I cling to my place 
in the world as though I’m ivy 
vacillating around 

the most usable truth. 
Why does the neighbor’s daughter 
tell me to hold my breath 

when I pass the cemetery 
by our home, will spirits enter 
my lungs, traipse along 

my own body’s inquiry like silt 
severed by water?  
Her name was Laurie. 

Why do I still hold my breath 
so her body found strangled 
on the sofa can’t become  

part of my skin?  
She was thirteen, babysitting. 
They can’t say if she’d been 

raped, then strangled; 
or strangled, then raped. 
A cold case.  They only said 

she used to cut hearts 
in her shirts at each breast 
to lure boyfriends. 

All I know is 
I’m a Miller moth clinging 
to the seat of my mother’s 

Corolla, riven with breath 
and budding.  She’s rushing 
past the monoliths strewn 

with hyacinths.  I’ll abandon 
my throat’s supple bevel 
of protection. 

Instead of paradox, 
I’ll horde light, willow bark’s 
sap-ridden tenderness. 

sara picSara Henning’s poetry, fiction, interviews and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Bombay Gin, Willow Springs, and the Crab Orchard Review. She has published a chapbook called To Speak of Dahlias and a full-length collection titled A Sweeter Water.

She was born in Savannah, Georgia, and raised in Athens, Georgia. She attended the University of Georgia and George Mason University before traversing north for doctoral study. Currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, she serves as Managing Editor for The South Dakota Review.

Here is a blog where Sara was recently interviewed.