The International Literary Quarterly

May 2009

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. Three poems from Sono: cantos by Sarah Arvio  



Was I playing it in the hope of joy,
play it as it lays, as someone said,
playing it down or else playing it up,
or was there some other raison d’être,
some other raisin drying in the sun,
or some other reason under the sun.
Please excuse my French, was there a reason
for being and doing anything else,
dreaming or dying for anything else.
“Be content with lack of misery”
was a kind of motto for some of us,
a kind of bonbon or a platitude,
or a kind of candy for a sucker
when what you need is a drink of sense,
the mot juste and a drink of joy or juice.
Drink up, drink up, or else drink it down,
have you ever pondered the difference?
Not a bon mot or else a play on words
but a choice between rising and falling.
Or lay it aside, play it as you can,
when what you need is some balm for the heart,
or else a pillow for your pretty head,
or a pill, or a grape plucked from the vine.
Maybe a surge, a surfeit or an urge
or something urgent in the argument,
as though reasoning could be part of it:
some say a surge of joy might be killing.


No, I was thinking I would lose my head
when there was the emperor’s man, and thwack—
it wasn’t my hat that was missing.
I was a sister or I was a saint,
maybe a gilded statue of Venus,
sporting a halo or wearing a hat,
blood on my bosom or no blood at all,
gilding a lily or a gala gown;
I was the garderobe or the avant-garde
with the guards at my back in the palace.
What was a bust without a head on it,
what was a dress without a girl in it,
a dress or a bag, a drape or a rag.
Dear Lesbia and poor fat Drusilla,
an emporium of décolletages
or a model of empiricism.
No, “please save me” wasn’t a noble thought,
but save my face, at least that act of grace!
All this was heady, which didn’t mean smart;
it was the foam or the fizz, or the fat,
the cut of the gown, the slash of the neck.
Oh god, how I wanted to dance and dance,
dress in a lily, shake myself silly.
The thought wriggled up, but my head was gone.
It could be me or my image in stone.
It might be a headstone or a hanger,
a headache maybe, or a hangover.


I said I could never live here, and I
never could, but I did for two decades—
I had fallen into a decadence.
No, not a cadence, though that too could fall,
darkly—ever so darkly—through a glass,
or a mirror or a dirty window
barred like a skeleton, barred like a cage.
Not as though I didn’t care—I did care.
I had been carping on the debacle
for most of ten years in the candlelight,
the decorum of the core of the deed,
decked in desire, here in my dark cave—
decorated with me, or with my core,
the dark card of the dark lass and lady,
dandling on her lap my own life—my life—
while I combed through the old crowns and papers.
It was tiny but cavernous, it was
cadaverous, it was my catacomb.
But could I be decanted from this jar?
Cant! Cant! The cant of I can’t—no, I can’t—
comb out my hair, climb out of my lair and
dance with the wind in the dandelions.
If the door was ajar, would I go out,
a cat darting her head around the door
(carpe diem, carry away the day).
A canticle of anticipation,
some dandelion wine and a draft of air.