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Sam Collier

 


It’s Not the Darkness, but the Looking Back

 

On the second day, we sewed our eyes shut
with needles thin as splinters. We were pointing our longing
at something like transcendence. Our eyelids flamed,
then wept, then swelled and crusted as our other senses
bloomed. In dark we reached for trees, found empty wind.
Vapor steamed off the prairie and we felt it on our necks.
Our mouths learned the taste of collision – some of us lost teeth
and buried them, shredding our fingernails, while the owls
discussed our strangeness in their watered tones.
By week two we could run across the fields.
The trick was to hold the terror right in front of you,
and split it with your body. To fall with a scream of joy
and surrender. To find the bruises with your fingertips,
lick the blood from your elbows, counting and
comparing notes. The sting meant it was working.
Our fevered skin meant we were getting somewhere.
When Esther broke her ankle in a foxhole, we told her
she was lucky –  she’d get there sooner. Told her to be grateful
when we heard her stumbling toward us, her breath
a halting shriek. Said that jealousy spiked in our throats.
But later, in my tent, I kissed my sturdy ankles,
nursed my treacherous relief like a hidden child,
proud of the way it twisted from my plans.
Hoped I could keep it fed on my thin milk of doubt,
just a small thing in my chest, dreaming
of the visible world. When Shay and Marnie left,
I pitied them as loudly as the others, but at night
I spooned their courage into my own shy heart.
I hoped if I ever left, I’d do it in a blaze of speeches
and dust. But the truth is, when the time came
all I did was snip the stitches from my eyelids
and step alone into a misty dawn,
hands in my pockets, my feet thanking the grass,
the morning opening itself to me in tears of light.



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Bio: Sam Collier's plays have been developed and/or produced by the University of Iowa, New Ground Theatre, Horse & Cart, PTP/NYC, and Theatre Nyx. Her poems have been published in Guernica, Broad!, and Pure Francis. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop.


Process: The collision of photography and paint in Holly Roberts' works suggested a blurring of reality and illusion that led me into the poem. I was interested in the way a similar collage could emerge through the shared voice of a group of people. Their fractured faces and outstretched hands. The eyes especially have a strong magnetic pull, each pair wildly individual and yet part of the multitude. What distortions and illusions might such a group surrender to? What willful blindnesses? And how might an individual pull free? 

All Responses:

Respond to a Prompt:

Submit your response to our current prompt(s). See our Submissions Guidelines page for details.

Bio: Sam Collier's plays have been developed and/or produced by the University of Iowa, New Ground Theatre, Horse & Cart, PTP/NYC, and Theatre Nyx. Her poems have been published in Guernica, Broad!, and Pure Francis. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop.


Process: The collision of photography and paint in Holly Roberts' works suggested a blurring of reality and illusion that led me into the poem. I was interested in the way a similar collage could emerge through the shared voice of a group of people. Their fractured faces and outstretched hands. The eyes especially have a strong magnetic pull, each pair wildly individual and yet part of the multitude. What distortions and illusions might such a group surrender to? What willful blindnesses? And how might an individual pull free?