Susan Stinson is the new poet-in-residence at Forbes Library, our public library in Northampton, where I recently had the pleasure of hearing her read from several of her books. Her published novels include Martha Moody and Fat Girl Dances With Rocks, and she’s also working on a novel about the Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards.
The poem below is reprinted by permission from her chapbook Belly Songs: In Celebration of Fat Women (Orogeny Press, 1993). Stinson says that it came out of the process of writing Martha Moody. Like her, I sometimes find that the best way to get inside my fictional characters’ heads is to step outside the narrative, let them write a poem, and see what comes up.
I realized I had to tell Martha.
She’d given this gift to me: sex and an outpouring ofwords. I wanted Martha to be an adamant vision in theworld, with her low-slung belly swaying in the morning ofa culture. Martha: the woman standing on the scallopedshell emerging from the sea. Martha’s hair is red foam, herfist is tight, her knees are dimpled. She poured water on myfeet, and there’s no part of me that can forget that.
I changed under the water and under her hands to anoutspoken woman. It was inspiration. She brought me tosex and to voice. She gave me a mouthful of wine. I drank,oh, I put my tongue along her tensed lips.
The way I feel when I’m moving the words is so closeto what she gives me with her knee between my legs, herfingers spreading me.
Please and thank you.
Rich. Reach me.
Reach inside me.
My uterus has tongues and they are lapping at her knuckles.
My cervix swells a story.
Her own breasts fall, cascades of fat and nipple, over herpadded ribs. She is mammoth. She haunts me. My soul ismy own, but when I write I find Martha, the miracle,riding a golden cow. Much moaning and lowing, manysmall hairs.
There are three forces. One is the body and my move-ments, need to eat, desire for Martha. Another is the spiritand the leaves and the way it moves in the leaves. Anotheris the spirit and the words and the way it moves in thewords.
It moved me. It woke me. It caught me. It disturbedme. Then I had a moment of absolute presence. Martha.