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Perfect, which I Will Describe in Sixteen Lines

the color of hair rinse that comes off on the pillowcase. My
grandparents slept in separate beds on separate floors of the house,
my grandma kept her shoes in the original boxes, I hid a cookie
behind the couch because I wanted to rescind desire. Who painted over
that woodwork? Who smashed the glass Christmas tree and invented stars?
That green smell of hickory nuts we’d squeeze in the vice
until they’d release their perfumes, the smell of hot asphalt and bullfrogs
flattened by tractors. Did people wear deodorant then, did we bind our braids
with rubber bands, did we sprinkle sugar on the graves, did we scale the fence
and ride the cemetery horses, were their manes like the hair of British
fashion models? The sky is large but limited, my life is dainty as that crucifix
on a chain as fine as a long, silver hair my parents bought me for Christmas
the year they decided we would need religion and a dog. The old woman stole
the crucifix, people turn into pack rats or crows and cram artificial teeth
into their mouths, the dog lived for awhile, then slid under the wheels
of a school bus the color of sunset, not sixteen lines but seventeen, not poppies
but hollyhocks, the purple black ones into which birds fly and disappear



Diane Seuss is the author of the poetry collections Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (2018); Four-Legged Girl (2015), finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (2010), winner of the 2009 Juniper Prize for Poetry; and It Blows You Hollow (1998). She has taught at Kalamazoo College since 1988.