Susannah Nevison

Susannah Nevison is the author of Teratology (Persea Books, 2015), winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry. She is also the recipient of a 2013 Academy of American Poets Larry Levis Prize, the 2013 American Literary Review Poetry Prize, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in both poetry and nonfiction. Her work has recently appeared in Ninth Letter, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Journal, Sycamore Review, and elsewhere. She teaches and studies at the University of Utah.

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Tapetum Lucidum 

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I’m asked if I want to see

what it looks like and I say

yes before I know I’m saying

yes. This isn’t news:

boys and a gun and a cat

left dead. It’s upstate

New York and I’m thirteen

and a veterinarian shows me

how it works—how to shine

a light in the animal’s eyes,

make them glow like two

green fruit. When I cut in

I expect shimmer, some

hidden iridescence, tissue

spun like thread. I want to see

what the cat must have seen—

the barrel raised, that crack

of sound, of dread—the eye

gives like a grape beneath

the blade. I bring it down.

The eye says what it can. And not

yet knowing what I’ll know of men,

I shine a light inside to see

the dark recede, a hunted thing.

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The Difference Between Life and Death

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is this, he says,

and pulls his trigger-

finger against

an imaginary trigger,

that’s it, says the former

sniper who is good

with his hands, who

now does good

with his hands, working

in plastic injection

molding, who fixes his

girlfriend’s mother’s car,

says, I can fix

almost anything

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War Fugue

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Hold him down brother

tie the rope bind him high

the blood mind the blood

brother singing the bucket’s tin

song brother singing the blood’s

bucket song plink plink pleads

the blood plink plink pleads

the pail the legs mind the legs

brother kicking the bucket’s tin

wail plunk suck sucks the drain

plunk suck pleads the drain

scrub it clean brother the room

shine it clean white with bleach

squeak squeak skid our shoes squeak

squeak calls the room your hands

mind your hands brother stinging

with bleach touch not your eyes

brother stinging the room’s blood

bleach sting like a god you work

in an empty room like a god

to forget any face but your own

brother says what is love what

love is this how we are men

in God’s likeness how we are made

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