It is Better to Marry than to Burn
Jenna Cardinales sonnets appear in recent or forthcoming issues of 42opus, Coconut, Court Green, and Dusie. Her work in the sonnet form has been supported by a BRIO grant from the Bronx Council on the Arts.
The trim of her clothes determines how well she knew the dead man. She stops by the wake. Looks at the place setting. Says you can tell who laid this table. The china is fake And the cups! A wet cup means a wedding. A white cup means a vacation. Its so hard to be proper. They changed the bedding after. I hope. The wife wears a hard blue. Is there pleasure when there is a passage. There is when every room is open. She moves up and down the stairs. Waits on the ledge. He doesnt come. She wouldnt want to be the center of attention. He cant leave. He watches her straighten her black skirt. Grieve.
Like a sunset going to sleep, she was too dead to come to me. I watched her eyes their lids quick to cover her up because she could only seem to see thick white skies curded over with clouds. Then Id forget her, listening to the just-cut flowers sipping their liquids. In the bar Id bet her brother shed survive, hold the powers that had pushed her. She couldnt succeed at most things, but suicide. A hospital hardly seemed appropriate. Somehow that seems appropriate. The damp capital of her country surrendered then, when I wouldnt listen. I wouldnt even try.
I am my own master of memory. I can recreate the colors of your license plate on command. My diary marks your movements. I record each dull chore, the texture of your trucks interior and the many small gaps between your teeth. But you have made me as inferior as a pink teenager lying beneath a man. This writings more frightening than high school. The yellow light I carry will last a long time. I keep it on when the sky is still map-blue. I split open my cast. My arm looks new. Now even tragedy has become traditional. Let me see.
They suffered the loss that cannot be weighed or measured. Their regret was packed tightly in the small suitcase, in the mums he paid for before. They had not rehearsed nightly this ritual of holding her bent tin body together. Shed worn a version of purple and tried to expel it in a flicker, a hurry. That excursion got them nowhere. And where was that classic country death watch. This was the second one. Half their deaths were still to come. Please dont stick anything near me again. I am done. This crisis was caused by simple math. Said labors leave a heaviness like sharp lead.
She uses pencil, but she presses hard, determined to make an impression. My tree stays tree, she quotes. Boiled, salted Swiss chard serves as supper nightly. She wonders why she pretends to like it. Oh that man. She must yet win him to his knees. I wonder if hed forget me if I undid me the locks! and stood back like a kind thunder and turned into a tree. She thinks his force might fit the shape of her sleep, her thought. But she records her own coldness, like the Norse. I shall be useful when I lie down, strut into finally. Soon I plan to be the magicians girl who cant flinch or see.
End it, he said just as soon as now. Go on. You know that blankets are warmer in summer. And the winter is hardly so lovely as the start. The weather was thin, so I agreed. But I refuse to read the prediction book anymore. What did it tell us. Not anything we would need to know in advance. As if it could rid us of this. The world is still full of sharp edges. The danger scrapes the white light from walls. But he was willing to play the harp in the dark like a lullaby. Try some sweet rum on the tongue and youll sleep, hed say. My horoscope hints to leave late in May.
He photographed my mourning. I could not contain my teeth. Hidden in the closet in my pocket, I found my flask and got it open easily. She lost this bet on living. She would have smiled, too. I wore sanguine taffeta to her hospital room, but bearing bright eyes became a chore I could not master. This plain recital of ending offends me still. She once went to Caracas, a city that sounds like a wooden instrument that has been bent into something unsure of itself. Strike outside of your shape, shed said. And all this. Suddenly not fizzing at all like this.
She believed in obeying the gnarled nudge of a random meeting in a parking lot. She had a tendency to misjudge men who appeared interested in marking her. There was the journalist whose typing shook her mandarin tea. And the thirty- four-year-old with the fake ID, griping about her catholicity, dirty feet in bed and the way her eyebrows did not match each other when she looked at him. She had to redecorate, so she bid on color. She won, left and had a slim moment. He hadnt risked enough. She gave him the canvas, touched his face, said Please shave.
He picks her up, reads each page of her like shes a polyglot whose nuance improves her story. They ride along the turnpike together. She watches as his hand moves further from the steering wheel. She is more awkward than a fire hydrant in his arms. She faces the window, handles the door. He cannot tell from her text what alarms her. She's been written on ersatz paper shes laminated by the rain. The screed addresses the surface of her caper. Hes sure there is a reason beyond greed for her surrender of the settle down. She may have drenched herself so she wont drown.
The sweater either belonged to a dead man or a man who lost a lot of weight. She puts it on, flattens into the bed. Shed found it in her new room, in the crate where she'd sensed a scent that never fades from skin. The stitching reminds her of a walk along the silk road. Who beat the tin drum, hummed of a wide island. Didn't they gawk at her. Shed had to exhale in stages. Now she wonders about the man who wore this thin wool. Had he other light cages, or was his cologne the effective lure. She accepts this cold gleaming loneliness. She drops his sweater. She keeps on her dress.