Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

dana sonnenschein


"The End of the Cenozoic Era"

           

            Barataria Preserve, Louisiana

 

That shadow where sun
           warms cypress roots
                       and tupelo.

 Not blown retread
           or crusted mud.  

The alligator the rangers
           call Bridget, warning
                       She's territorial.  

And the land wedged
           between canals and all
                       that swims in both

is hers.  So we don't take
           the palmetto trail
                       marked by her

spraddled tread
           and sweep of tail.

*

From the footbridge,
           I glimpse her

yellowed, toothsome smile,
           chin on the ground,
                       and try to calculate

her length, how long
           she's lived on turtle,
                       coypu, muskrat, gar.  

At 12 feet, she could be
           a hundred, or more,
                       her gizzard stones

even older.  Our years
           mean less to her
                       than an egret taking off.

She may have grown up
           eating leftovers
                       of deals gone south

strange fruit,
           slaves as dark
                       as sugar cane smoke.

Who needs graveyards
           with the water
                       right there?

*

I look at Bridget
           and see her ancestors
                       drowsing through dark

and cold, dreaming
           while dinosaurs died.

When I close my eyes
           and think of the future,
                       it's an endless

hurricane season.
           She pushes off
                       banked earth and swims

past the shell-heaps
           of Bayou Coquille
                       into the Upper Kenta.  

Bodies float in a swelter
           of flood debris.  
                       She bites and rolls.

I am old, and my kind
           is passing
                       from this world.

As saltwater rises,
           her tail ripples   
                       her into fresh.  

Only her nostrils
           and eyes show
                       above the surface.

They say a man can hold
           an alligator's mouth
                       shut.

But once it's open,
           nothing can stop it
                       closing.
 


"Drag memoir"

 

When I held my hair behind my head, a boy
stared back from the mirror.  When I let go,
a girl.  So easy it was frightening.
You are what you wear, I learned in school,
where I was boys' pants and tees, handed down
by cousins, and my fat girlfriend's dresses,
always out of fashion before they fit.
Then I spent four years in flannel shirts and jeans,
a look my father called your uniform,
not unisex.  At university, I tried on everything
from dancing silks to overalls, even one of his suits.
I liked the vest, charcoal pinstripe in front,
bright red in back.  But again and again I found
myself closeted in the thrift-store changing room—
until I settled on the image in the mirror,
noir in flat black ankle-boots, men's jackets,
knife-creased trousers pinched in at the waist.
Later I fell for shifts and rhinestone pins,
elbow-length gloves, high heels, tattered furs.
I knew the delight of drag, its pull and weight—
smoky gangster and moll, indeterminate,
the looks I gave, the looks I got.


Dana Sonnenschein is a professor at Southern Connecticut State University, where she teaches Shakespeare, folklore, and creative writing. Her publications include creative nonfiction and books of poetry (Bear Country, 2008, and Natural Forms, 2006) as well as two chapbooks of prose poems. Individual pieces have appeared in journals such as Epoch and Feminist Studies, and are forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Measure, and elsewhere.