Poetry Suite by Cassandra de Alba

Editor Carrie Ivy, Poetry, December 9th, 2013

He dies onstage, writhing and sputtering blood before an awestruck crowd...

poetry cassandra de alba nailed magazine

For Robert Wadlow, Dead at 22

The public was so curious, your family buried you
in concrete. Burned most of what you owned.
A lot of tall men out of Illinois, but you were near
nine feet, everything you did a superlative—
the tallest boy ties his shoes,
cracks an egg. Says please.
Wants to be a lawyer. Spends a season
with the circus, center ring: wears
a suit, answers questions matter-of-fact.
None of that stuff the other giants do.

Medical men so desperate for interviews
they break into your home. Write you up
as surly, antagonistic, paranoid—not
all there.

Now, you are a statue in your hometown.
A line in the Guinness Book. A piece
of trivia—the tallest man who ever lived.

 + + +

The Lion-Faced Girl Says it Again

Late July in Minnesota
and a storm breaks over the tents
every mid-afternoon. Elephants
push stuck wagons
out of knee-deep mud
and we swat mosquitoes, stay
in what passes for indoors.

Flora mutters over a piece of sewing,
summer sweat catching her thin dress
against her shoulder blades,
the delicate hollow of her back.
Collector and keeper of a single
phrase, she is never so happy
as when she has caught a new language,
embroidered it under her tongue.
Norwegian is her nineteenth, same
as her age. Her fingers push
hair from her eyes and the needle
through silk and she practices
her plea, voice a lilting bell:
Elsker du meg? Elsker du meg?
Do you love me?

+ + +

The Leopard-Skin Boy Explains His Condition

See here, it’s like this. My ma and pa, they always
wanted a baby, but none came for years. So my pa,
he gets a little spotted dog. Scrap of a thing. Runt
of Jacobson’s litter, down the road.

My ma, she loved that dog just like her own child.
Taught it to shake her hand, gave it baths in the kitchen sink.

Well, when she found out she was pregnant, she goes down
to the river where my pa’s working, proud as anything
to tell him, and that dog comes bounding along beside her,
jumps right into the water and gets swept away. Pa went in after
but it was drowned by the time he fetched it out.

Ma cried for days, wouldn’t get out of bed. And when I
come out—well, you see.

+ + +

The Human Ostrich Writes His Own Obituary

In dreams he dies onstage,
writhing and sputtering blood
before an awestruck crowd,
but he knows when the time comes
he’ll go like the others – the hospital stay,
the failed operation, the day’s decline.
Cause of death no mystery. He won’t know
which nail, glass shard or watch chain,
but he knows his unremarkable body
will not pay his way forever
without demanding its due.
The newspaper will list his name,
his occupation, his stomach contents:
one four-bladed knife, three latchkeys,
seven hairpins, twenty-eight nails.
A barbed-wire staple. A wedding ring.
The proper death rising to meet the man
who has spent years swallowing his fate.

+ + +

Crowning Glories

The town huddles and whispers at the edge of the forest –
witchcraft, vanity, sin. The town says the Sutherland Sisters
conjure the dead in the mansion in the woods
with the water-tank on top, the seven marble bathrooms,
the weird waft of decay. It says Isabella spends her nights
in the cemetery, lights lanterns for her suicide, drapes
his unfinished mausoleum with her six feet of hair.
It remembers Naomi and Sarah lying in state,
Frederick unembalmed under a glass-domed casket.
The sisters singing around him, their hair caressing the floor.
Onstage they would wait until curtain call
to turn around in unison for the big reveal,
exquisite harmonies no match for their hair
tumbling to the orchestra pit.

But the bob is invented, Barnum moves on, and the sisters
still shoe their carriage horses in gold, pay servants
to comb their hair every night. The family fails
to go gently – the police must come
for every corpse. Even the dogs get funerals, flowers,
an obituary drawn up and printed. The family dwindles.
The town stares. When Mary goes insane, again,
locked in a room by what sisters remain,
some of the doctors blame her hair.

+ + +

poet cassandra de alba nailed magazineCassandra de Alba lives in Massachusetts with two other writers and a cat who won’t stop hitting her. Her work has appeared in NAP, Illuminati Girl Gang, and Strange Horizons, among other publications. She’s read poetry on stage in at least 12 different states, but still doesn’t know how to ride a bike.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.