Sunday Oct 25

Sandella Poetry T.J. Sandella, recently named one of the Best New Poets of 2014 (University of Virginia Press, selected by Dorianne Laux), is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets Prizes, a Pushcart Prize nomination, an Elinor Benedict Prize for Poetry (selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil), and a William Matthews Poetry Prize (selected by Billy Collins). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spoon River Poetry Review, Zone 3, Passages North, Asheville Poetry Review, The South Carolina Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and Hotel Amerika, as well as the anthologies The Best of The Fourth River, The Best of Trop, and Best New Poets 2014. He lives with his puppy, Rufio, in Cleveland, Ohio, where he’s a soapbox spokesman for the Rust Belt’s revitalization.

A Lesson in Annihilation

All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.
                        - Toni Morrison

Water wants us dead—our wrists like red curtains
on opening night. Better yet, it wants us from the inside, says,

Swim until you can swim no longer. What we call
the urge to self-destruct is only this—a way back home, a gift

the giver wants back. See, it’s water’s voice sloshing around
in the murk we call sadness and mistake as our own. What’s a girl

to do? Landlocked. Drowning in the muddy depths
of her head. Perhaps you thought the bathtub romantic,

overkill a symptom of dedication. Handful of pills. Something sharp.
One can never be too careful. We learned that lesson young—two sets of eyes

in the rearview mirror, scanning the street for the anger we fled.
Any moment, we thought, it would come growling out of the darkness

and flash its bright lights. But our gaze settled with each state line, a slow inversion
at the corners of our mouths. Then, miles of cows. Tepid coffee and water stained

Of course we ended up at the ocean—sleeping on sand, swimming at sunrise.
Each time you dove underwater, I held my breath. Counted the seconds.

After three days, we had just enough money to make it back home. What could we do
but follow those yellow lines, swallow them like poisonous breadcrumbs?

Plans were made for future escapes, a cabin on the lake. You promised
that your body would forget mutiny, that the waves would ebb

until they were silent. But water’s memory is insistent. It wasn’t long
before you filled the tub, rattled those pills into your palm,

and opened the dam of your skin. You were emptied—
an emulsion that began as a seductive wisp of red.

I spent my life hiding razors, begging you to stick around.
I spent my life trying to convince you

that sadness wasn’t in your blood. You spent yours
trying to see for yourself.

Fragments for the Lost

first, can’t imagine them
anywhere else—

not Georgia
with a boy with a beard
who looks just like you
if you had a beard
and a heart
that glowed like a star
in the dark,

not D.C.
on a train
and the blur
that is her tucks a wisp
of hair behind an ear
and roars by
and disappears,

not Hometown, Ohio
where you
high school sweethearts
waited tables and saved tips
in a jar
that you smashed
on the floor
the night
you became
part of the night,

and especially
not Underground, Arizona
where not one
grave flower
planted there
in the earth
was buried
by your hands
that ran through her hair
when she walked
like a dream
Above Ground.

first, can’t imagine them
anywhere else—

later, impossible to think
they were ever