small textlarge text

Susan Yount

Excerpts from Catastrophe Theory


Almost Catastrophe

There was something about Joe his empty hand wide
open the way he pointed to his every physical fault false
teeth wet lung hernia enlarged nutsack prison tattoos parole
Vitalogy had just come out that year and it was a first hit
and yes he told stories and I believed them involuntary
manslaughter because the trailer came loose his rig and killed
someone but he was out and we were free I believed

he was the first person to ever love me all his tattoos said so
especially the new ones and when he asked me to marry him
he had a ring a diamond and everything and I said yes
    on condition he keep the same job for at least a year
he was pouring concrete chickens and flamingos on Kinderhook
and if he wasn't careful their heads would break at the throat
and lifting them hurt his hernia
instead         he wrecked his ride home

I was some sort for sure skinny anemic cold carpal
tunnels abused bitten broken violated all teeth hot knots
working fulltime temporary nightshift in a label printing factory
and at first the acetone was a fucking lobotomy
taking four classes at IUS and sometimes I would waitress
    he owed me money
and fuck       without it I couldn't pay next semester
but he repaid enough from his insurance settlement
    that I took three classes and really
that was about all I could take

it was finally the weekend Joe had started selling pot and I told
him that didn't count as a job and we all had a good laugh there
was about 7 or 8 of us helping his brother pack to move
                        the townhouse

was finally empty and so the deal was he'd get this broken gun
and Joe's best friend was cocking and looking and Joe's brother
was passing a blunt and we were all cigarettes smoking

saying our goodbyes when the gun fired and Joe was shot

the bullet hit bone exited back his calf and I was standing
next to him deaf frozen he was scream hopping
and his brother said fuck man good luck and jumped
into the moving van and everyone else ran except us

Cusp Catastrophe

V = x4 + ax2 + bx
There is now a curve of points in (a, b) space where stability is lost,
 where the stable solution will suddenly jump to an alternate outcome.

x=oatmeal coffee schedule request Christmas on Friday this year
a=private mother emotional just took the phone off forward at 8:27 a.m.
b=a woman who worries things to do at work

V=a few months before her death 11:29 press release

There was a house (x) on fire in the period (a)
when condition (b) was fluid, frank and simple—
At that same moment (V), two divorces were arranged
and a student wrote that she couldn't understand
the woman's punctuation. It is buckling to hear.


x       was like a regular day off on a holiday
a       was like the 2:30 fix
b       was born from an abandoned car

V       was like restless vagina syndrome

People carry-on baggage (x).
At 1:29 p.m. there is an automated message (a):
Congress (b) has passed the new 2009 stimulus package
for small businesses. 11:30 a.m.—beep—beep—
At 11:29 p.m. there is another message (V): mommy where
are you at the computer rubbing dirt sandwiches into her mouth.

All That It Takes

The lawnmower-switch factory used
tiny springs. Much smaller than any other
spring you have ever seen—of that I am certain,
the circumference of your pupil
staring at sunlit concrete, the length of half
a paperclip—five per switch.
We went through every crinkled finger
aligning them as fast as we could.

We beat bundles of labels against tables
until they fanned into plastic (or paper) rainbows—
Tide, Dynamo, Wisk, Snuggle…
Linda must have taken some amphetamines
with teeth that day because she kept cutting
and shoving labels at the packers.
The music changed to death metal.

It is not that her hair grew fast—long, sweaty strands
snaking through the fan breeze—
but that time really passed too quickly.

The day the handmade lampshade factory closed
the women did their best to wear
their fanciest pair of blue jeans.
But the men were angry and walked too far ahead.
Their boots filled with sand. Turning to glass—
they became transparent, crackling along Lake Michigan,
fires burned right inside them—hearts like little grenades.

Excerpted from Catastrophe Theory by Susan Yount (Hyacinth Girl Press 2012)

➥ Bio