Black Lawrence Press
November 21, 2017

Welcome, Sunni Wilkinson!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired in the past six months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods and our 2017 Hudson Prize. Today we bring you Sunni Wilkinson, author of the poetry collection A Hand on the Other Side, which was a finalist for this year’s Hudson Prize will be published in the summer of 2019.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

 

2 (1)The Author

Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Sugar House Review, Ascent, Cimarron Review, The Cossack Review, Southern Indiana Review and other journals and anthologies and has been nominated for two Pushcarts and a Best of the Net. She has an MFA from Eastern Washington University, teaches at Weber State University, and lives in Ogden, Utah with her husband and three young sons.

 

 

On writing A Hand on the Other Side

This book, ten plus years in the making, began as a collection of poems from my MFA thesis but over the years, as I got married and started having children, began to shift into a new focus. As a new mother, I began writing more about motherhood and the tenderness and misunderstandings that exist between humans, the joys of living in this world together and the limitations of our understanding of each other. Though the natural world appears regularly in my poetry, my real landscape is people. Strangers on a plane, refugees down the street, a famous lady balloonist, a prodigal neighbor, and my children all fascinate me. Their presence, their voices, real or imagined, remind me how complex we are as a species and that, in spite of all the horror in the world, we’re beautiful. My belief in a life after this one has also found its way to the center of the book.

I wrote most of these poems early in the morning in my cold, unfinished 1950s basement while the rest of my family was sleeping. It was my brief time alone before nursing, cleaning, cooking, teaching, doing laundry, and practicing the fine art of cleaning up playdough. In those hours at the computer, the house dark and still, I poured over the voices in the world I knew and wrote about them. Motherhood has brought me not only a love for my children, but in ways I never would have expected, a deep love for the world.

 

 

Excerpts

 

The Body Carries Its Own Light

1.
Dark horses, Mary.  Dark shoulders in the dusk of your long hair.
Blue dusk where I sit with you, brushing your hair the color

of the wood your father split in Chiapas where he farmed,
was it coffee?  Your mother one of many wives there.  Black horses

in the darkness that covered the farm where your mother found you
slumped and breathless.  The other wives crying, pushing

the children out of the way of the doctor who came
on foot, having tended to the horses, their long hair

so much like yours, Mary, damp with sweat and clinging
to your tiny face, fair for Mexican and now blue, now grey.

The walnuts you were eating scattered on the table in disarray.  This is
before Cecy.  This is when the darkness took over everything

and left you, for the first time, alone. The wives clinging to each other
and pale. Your mother’s face a little cloud. Your beautiful mother. Numero Tres,

the one who came at dusk so her wedding ceremony would be brief
like the wedding night itself, like the moments

that bloomed between them when the smell of wood was not fetid
yet, though the smell of coffee never was.  Where was your father

with the fields too shadowed for harvest or planting?
In the stables, one mare lay back wearily and the strange sac

between her legs,
torn and white, once encasing her foal,

lay still.  Still and white and shining.  No more breathing
inside it. No more breathing.

Where did you go then, Mary?

2.
Today at the breakfast table, Cecy coos to you, teases and coos
traviesa, flaca, que quieres, mi amor? Cecy who came here

under a tarp in a truck, who crossed parts of the desert
alone, who will never go back.  She feeds you through a tube

and you blink to say thank you.  She washes your legs and arms,
your whole body long for eight and stiff. Cecy

rubs your muscles to keep them
from knotting, to keep them strong for the day

she believes you will walk to the gates of Paradise
before us all, not contrite

but like a terrible horse, trampling the last embers of the dark
with your tiny hooves.

3.
In a dream of the possible, the mare waits, panting.  The foal inside her
trembles.  Your father rises out of the dark of a new woman and walks

to where you sit at a table eating walnuts alone,
your small legs swinging.  He has come slowly, full of bitter coffee

and the feast of the body of a new bride.  He has come to find you,
drawn as if by the darkness itself that breaks over him like waves,

driving him toward the marriage of the moon and the field,
toward the mare, now opening her body for the terrible letting-go,

toward you, Mary,
little bride of your own body.

(First published in Cutthroat)

 

***

 

Fairytale

It’s a cottage.  The teacups
hold nothing but sun.

The pains are gone
and the child is here.

He sleeps under waves
of breath, smacking

his lips
like the fish

he once was in the lake
of his mother,

now a prince in this
kingdom of air.

 

***

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