Death Styles 9.2

Joyelle McSweeney

daughter style

to order the black sneakersto keep the late appointmentto convince the lady hygienist to see youeven now, even now when we’re so latelarge, glossy, and made of powerlike Europa pulled away by cow to drown at seawho comes back every morning as her avatar, Dawnshe leads you off to the white interioryour grin is spreadingit’s so American to hurt you like thisfor the sake of your own white teethto send the old pair backto order the next size upto study your toes, how they line upshell-pink and auspiciousas romanovs in snowwhen I’m your age I sit in the schoolroomand contemplate wheel of fortunethe cardboard globe tilts in its metal braceif you pull it out of the brace it has two holes in itand is easily dentedwhich is what the brace is forbut you have to dislodge it to learn thisso it’s already too lateas we stare at the doortry to melt the afternoon with laser visiontap at smashed screens with sore fingers(you’re with me now)Will youtake backwhat you saidif I swathe youin denialsthick as asneaker treadmy own inutilitygapes like a snake in the starsflashes fangswrithes pointlesslyand swallows nothingI don’t bother to look up anymorebut grope under your pillow for devicesunder the datestamp, a tsunamibattens then retracts from the amusement parkthinking better and leavinga huge eye of wheel in the mudin my mind’s black eye,an old nerve winks like a lost fortunean old possibility goes gill-greensneakers wash up along the shorelinein your sleep you repeat the motionof advancing, retractingof flinging wide your nets to net the moonbut like every tide you faillike a pulsing star you signallike a star you fail to hide behind your signal

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Joyelle McSweeney is a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry. She has been recognized with the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America and a Literature Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A founding editor of the international press Action Books, McSweeney teaches at Notre Dame. Her tenth book, Death Styles, is forthcoming from Nightboat Books in 2024.


Goshen, Vermont

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