Susan Terris

Fugue State

She is in a fugue state. There are holes
in her arm made by the fat man with suitcase
and Uzzi.
As her husband, a red blossom spreading across
his chest, lies in her lap, she hears screams
and mewling. A swift--if imperfect--shield,
he'd wedged his body in front of hers.
now while she cries, odd sounds
chirr from his throat.
She feels burning, numbness; and when she looks
up, tinted windows of his office
pewter the sky.
Somehow, he'd punched an outside line
so she could plead for help.
Now, though time creeps, they wait.
I'm dying, he manages, as cones from
spotlights sear, and we need to say good-bye.

This is only shock, she tells herself. Help
will come. Things will be all right.
We'll have children and beachcomb in Kauai.

Week-old tulips, ones she'd bought
for his birthday, gape in the crystal bowl
atop the desk. They are scarlet, yet
not as scarlet as the bouquet mantling his shirt.
Nothing again will ever be real, she murmurs.
I am beyond the rainbow.
Today is yesterday inside out. Tomorrow
is upside down. I was young, and now I am old,
because there are holes in him. In me, too:
both of us are leaking.
If there were holes in time, I would inch
backwards with him, babe in my arms,
seal them over, lullaby us into yesterday.
Or I would tell him how the wizard told the sultan
the earth is held up on the back of
a giant elephant, and the elephant stands on
the back of a giant turtle. After that,
of course, it's turtles--turtles, all the way down...

For them, the past was always overture. But now
his parched lips snap, turtle-like yet mute;
and past is everything, for she is in a fugue state.

Copyright 1996, Susan Terris

Susan Terris has published three books: Nell's Quilt (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996), Killing in the
Comfort Zone
(Pudding House, 1995), and Author! Author! (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990).
Her poetry has appeared in many journals, including The Antioch Review, Poetry Northwest,
Poets On, Negative Capability, Calyx, Kalliope
, and Tikkun. "Fugue State" was previously
published in the Kansas Quarterly, 26:1-4.

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