Poetry / Seth Leeper
:: cats in a bag ::
i learned my duplicity at a young age amidst late night serenades of shattering glass and slamming cupboards / slinking around corners to survive the impact from each sonic boom / donning my cheshire smile in the morning like a denial of the night before / an implicit approval / a strategy to avoid the jagged edge of a curse / the pointed edge of a cutting board / rolling across the floor showing my belly / projecting cute to survive / the long drive to the hospital for stitches above a crying eye / phone calls to mother explaining the accident / i don’t blame her anymore / we were cats in a bag tossing and hissing and fighting for love or approval / stalking a prey called loyalty or devotion / he’d left me once / i remember her perched on the kitchen counter looking at the clock / calculating the difference between time with him and time without
:: the last time we saw you ::
we never got to see your final ascent she just dumped you like stale cigarette ashes into the delta and never apologized to anyone for the missed show or wasted gas which was her last power play her final triumph to singe the skin and squeeze the heart and she never had to touch any one of us to do it now she had something of you no one could take or give back her repulsive reflexes and cackling on the way back to her car ensured no one would try so you drifted away from us the wind carrying you across grass plains and water the wind chasing the wheels of her car down the dirt highway the keys in her ignition rattling as she slithered out of focus out of view out of our lives for good
From the writer
:: Account ::
“cats in a bag” and “the last time we saw you” are from my manuscript, double feature: anatomy of a star | of men and monsters. The manuscript’s first part follows the Speaker through planes astral and celestial in pursuit of his father. The second part, which these poems are from, finds the Speaker in more grounded spaces, anchored in the reality of his grief and trauma. The Speaker is fleeing from memories and his own accountability in the relationship between himself and his father, and he has plunged headfirst into processing the relationship dynamics that were complicated by his father’s spouse. Deprived of closure for himself and his family, the Speaker makes attempts to forge his own resolution with his father, and make sense of the spouse who functioned as rival and villain in his childhood.
Peeling back the curtain a bit on craft, these poems represent experimentations with how space is utilized on the page. The decision to use punctuation, or not, is meant to add an element of tension, or disruption. It complicates the narrative and the experience of how the reader engages with the text. It also mirrors the fragmentations of the Speaker’s memories.
I was also interested in experimenting with prose blocks, since I had primarily written in verse prior to this project. The blocks provide a frame for each poem, and serve the overall attempt to world-build in both portions of the manuscript. The world in of men and monsters where these poems occur is one of harsh realities and uncertainty—filled with monsters both fictive and real—and it moves back and forth between the present and the past. This is the opposite of the world in anatomy of a star, where the Speaker wields the power of his imagination and grief to create moments outside of commonly accepted consciousness to interrogate and reunite with his father. The project is meant to transcend the personal and the specific; to offer catharsis, comfort, and hopefully healing for the reader who can empathize with the work.
Seth Leeper is a queer poet. A Best of the Net nominee and 2022 Brooklyn Poets Fellow, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sycamore Review, River Styx, Salamander, Hobart After Dark, Overheard Lit, and Always Crashing. He holds an M.A. in Special Education from Pace University and B.A. in Creative Writing and Fashion Journalism from San Francisco State University. He lives and teaches in Brooklyn, NY. He tweets @sethwleeper.