Three Poems by Sloane Eliot Mariem

Heresy for the Nonbeliever / Mistaking Real Things for Shadows

No refuge here, not with you
no room for my veiled language
(you’ll find ways to understand)
what is this dream state, what is this where
together we kill my ex-lovers
(in dreams) in dreams
Together we make [me] prime for your taking.
What is this
Heaven knows
(Something Cosmic)
I don’t believe in
(don’t even search for what I cannot touch
with my own two hands)
Every moment with you: heresy for the nonbeliever
You terrify and
we are both,
you said we are both
everything (everything)
Everything: we make notes,
are aroused and
don’t you know better
Your hand on a mound; fist on my back saying
‘whose are you’ and of I, of course, I succumb so
you can lead me through the pain, a cleansing

what’s real:
In 1984 two Americans fucked in Kaiserslautern
In 1985 two Czechs fucked in Opava

and don’t you know better
than to fuck writers
sidelong glances at each other
don’t you know better
(we are both)
everything: cells that grew and mutated
thirty years in the making and
how are you (everything
i’ve wanted)
a fantasy
(illusion / delusion)
I recognize
your hand on my throat
speaks of tenderness
and I’ll give myself to you wholly in moments
my thin fingers turn you on
and this is
your fist on my back, again: ‘who told you you could move’
wetness, instinctual grabbing as if to save a life (ours)
how to do this without the refuge of words or
secret spaces, how do i fear in front of you
learn in front of you, believe in front of you
grow warm, grow warm, until the cold realness
this last-ditch
and didn’t you know I’m a nonbeliever
reformed romantic, lapsed Catholic,
building her gods on the backs of men
(like you)
another one for my pantheon, i offer
eternal life
filling my void
(a Sisyphean task)
and don’t you know i know better;
that everything with you is heresy for a nonbeliever


capstone to a year of anniversaries that crept by like little ghosts,
not always noticeable, not solidly felt, mostly unseen until they weren’t:
left panic-ridden on a tiled floor again, just one more man turning away

and it’s salt in the wound of lessons unlearned: never to trust,
always to doubt the ones who would ask to see you cry

so his cock stiffens with the swell of your lips, your cheeks flush,
your flood of tears; they read as games to him, but does he know
the real pain in the tearing-away from unmade memories, meat from bone,
the severed fasciae of New England homes and beaches in winter,
shared spaces and how you’d have been his forever

does he know the way he salts the earth; the impossibility of it now,
the burnt crossings, the smoke-smell of things that can’t return

so your monolithic mouth spreads words he hates to hear, heavy-crushed
but you won’t scream, lips full, vessels pulsed, spilled blood from gums
where his rot sets in; saccharine, the goodness always coming in dreams
that spill over, bringing ants in the sober daylight

sometimes he’d grab you in his half-sleep, violently, say he loves you then
tear at breasts in desperation, mount you, not knowing who you are
and it becomes clear: you’re all the same to him

when you said first, do you want to elope, he said, when is your lease up,
said he liked that you were angry all the time in the face of your injustice,
but what’s more: said in the dead of drunk that he’d destroy you, and
just look at the ways he’s tried

he said she heard he’s good with broken girls because he’s with you,
but he’s not and isn’t; your bag of broken bones scotch taped
with fast dissolving dreams, that alka-seltzer solution
just numbs a pain he can’t begin to reach
before turning to pat himself on the back:
a compulsion

so congratulations, you only son, our lord and savior
whose slender fingers brush the dark spirals of your back hair now?
whose stand-in bruises do you mend this time around?
do you know whom you grab in the dark?

straw god car-crash hopeless blues.

i’m on the bed, dancing a little, shaking my hips in small ways,
i’m shirtless, sports bra, leggings, hair tied up all 1950s housewife

you are leaving, you are getting ready to leave, and you
walk to the bed, hug me, but i’m tall, taller than usual, and
your sharp chin comes to my stomach where i once housed

our greatest creation, our only art, aborted, abandoned, all
Moses in basket, we threw it out like you threw me out like i threw myself
into the oblivion of ativan-klonopin nights unremembered where you

pushed yourself into my immobile holes, where you moved my limbs
for me, to get me into position (for you) where i stayed numb to it all,

a last-ditch effort to hang onto the threadbare sanity you had ripped, torn,
had whittled down to nothing but a shell of a shell of a snakeskin shed in labor

your chin pokes the slight paunch under my navel, i’m swaying lightly, tentatively,
embarrassed, we’re smiling, we’re ‘cool for cats’, and you’re drumming the rhythm on my ass

i sway and we smile and this is how it should have been always, and
i’m acutely aware of how much i’ve given up for this immense nothing;
heavy in the certainty that this reality was never ours, still isn’t, just taunts in small doses, still

won’t stick, never stuck, despite how i fought for it and died martyred for it, a nonexistent god
now visible only in small hip-shakes when it’s too late, it’s too late, it’s too late,

now again i glance the could-have-beens as i perish once more under your stupid thumb,
shed my skin to find no new growth beneath; reduced to beige, brittle
housing the nothing you gave me, shedding off hope in thick sliding slabs
and losing myself to you somehow still

not the secular stoic one would need to be to endure all this, no,
so i slip once more down benzodiazepine highways to dry the tears, but
lights blur still, car crashes still without refracted light, though now the pain is swift, dulled

a learned way of coping: kill yourself before anyone else can, hold no hope prisoner, let
go the wheel and place your fate somewhere between your nerves and your straw redeemer

about the author:

Sloane Eliot Mariem is a Florida-raised, Brooklyn-based poet exploring trauma, recovery, and the formation of new relationships in the wake of domestic violence. Her work has appeared in Vending Machine Press and Electric Cereal and she has read in NYC as part of the Vapors reading series.