The FLAC conference was really wonderful--gorgeous weather in a town radiating history, the Flagler College campus exquisite in its spirit and architecture. The conference is scheduled for St. Augustine again next year, and I recommend you liter(sc)ary folks plan to attend--unless you disdain events less pompous, posturing, and political than, say, AWP. This conference is far more laid-back and democratic.
I was happy to be introduced to some writers I'd never read before, among them tiny but powerful poet Julia Levine, barely-legal novelist Tony D'Souza, and voodoo-dark poet Sheryl St. Germain.
I brought you back one of Sheryl's poems:
In memory of my brother, Jay St. Germain, 1958-1981
The truth is I loved it,
the whole ritual of it,
the way he would fist up his arm, then
hold it out so trusting and bare,
the vein pushed up all blue and throbbing
and wanting to be pierced,
his opposite hand gripped tight as death
around the upper arm,
the way I would try to enter the vein,
almost parallel to the arm,
push lightly but firmly, not
you don't want to go through
the vein, just in,
then pull back until you see
hold the needle very still, slowly
shoot him with it.
Like that I would enter him,
slowly, slowly, very still,
then he would let the fist out,
loosen his grip on the upper arm--
and oh, the movement of his lips
when he asked that I open my arms.
how good he was, sliding
the needle silver and slender
so easily into me, as though
my skin and veins were made for it,
and when he had finished, pulled
it out, I would be coming
in my fingers, hands, my ear lobes
were coming, heart, thighs,
tongue, eyes and brain were coming,
thick and brilliant as the last thin match
against a homeless bitter cold.
I even loved the pin-sized bruises,
I would finger them alone in my room
like marks of passion;
by the time they turned yellow,
my dreams were full of needles.
We both took lovers who loved
this entering and being entered,
but when he brought over the
pale-faced girl so full of needle holes
he had to lay her on her back
like a corpse and stick the needle
over and over in her ankle veins
to find one that wasn't weary
of all that joy, I became sick
with it, but
you know, it still stalks my dreams,
and deaths make no difference:
there is only the body's huge wanting.
When I think of my brother
all spilled out on the floor
I say nothing to anyone.
I know what it's like to want joy
at any cost.
Sheryl St. Germain