For Cindy, Who Cut Her Own Throat: Sutter Psych Hospital

You most reminded me of that young
rattler mid-trail in the hills —
its lax but ready body
measuring three-hundredths
of a mile, I guessed.
But barbed-wire’s lace is the more obvious
likeness to your scars,
the fashion of them, their short slashes crossing,
with the look of something costly.

Still, a young snake’s realistic —
it will grow, the knife-line life-drawing will heal.
You found a board and care;
that took a while but now it’s responsible
to safe-keep and discharge you. You’re scared
but better than when we met
four weeks ago. Tall and beautiful,
you show how thought has worn you.

You will not wear a turtleneck —
a paring knife of a ruffle
will always show.
And long-necked, not like a snake,
you’re like a swan. A snake
makes it under the wire. A swan
swims, Cindy, in the blue holes of your eyes.





Sandra McPherson has published twenty collections, including her newest book, Quicksilver, Cougars, and Quartz, forthcoming from Salmon Poetry Press. Work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly, Field, Poetry, Iowa Review, Yale Review, Agni, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, and Antioch Review. She taught for twenty-three years at University of California at Davis and four years at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her collection of sixty-seven African American improvisational quilts is housed at UC-Davis’s Design Department. She founded Swan Scythe Press and is the great-grand-niece of Abby Morton Diaz, Plymouth feminist author and abolitionist.

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