Two poems from Mirande Bissell’s Stalin at the Opera
followed by a note on the author
About the Screenplay
They’ve buried a dead girl under the story again
like a fish head in a tomato garden—
to tap her mineral veins and blue breath.
There’d be no story, the writers tell anyone
who’ll listen as they ride the elevators up
and down, if someone flute-boned hadn’t
bled out, if the downy animal we’ve come from
weren’t nested under the foundation.
They’re waiting for what will grow
from her punctured windpipe, her water-
logged skin. Though the girl isn’t dead
at all. She’s waiting for the desert
at night. For interstellar cool. She’s
a bird of prey looping over their city
and the small lizard evading her own gaze.
My father asked for an end to labor,
but over and over the world was laid
like a newborn in his arms. He rescued
the black pony from the dog food buyer
at auction, though rescue is too strong
a word. With his bum leg, the pony lived
with us five years, fathering
two unexpected foals my brother and I
discovered, silver on their spindle-legs
in grass high as our chests, the placenta
steaming at our feet. We ran to tell
the grownups, past the neutered goat
we’d all mistaken for a nanny,
past cats dropped off in the night,
sleeping in car engines cold mornings,
till the engines turned over.
The pony collapsed on the ice
one morning, his eyes rolled back,
his muzzle locked with tetanus.
I haven’t been waiting for anything
but his seized throat to open,
his easy breath on my palm.
I believe there’ll always be
foxes more lithe
than I’ll ever be, their forgiving tails
waving along blond crests of hills.
Resurrection is clover. Abundant,
a nuisance even.
Mirande Bissell lives in Ellicott City, Maryland. She is a recent graduate of the Bennington College MFA in poetry program. You can find her poems in journals such as Meridian, Bellingham Review, and Chattahoochee Review, among many others. Her poem “The Mammoth Steppe” won the 2019 prize in the Stone River Poetry Review contest.
About the Screenplay was first published in Mississippi Review, where it was a 2019 prize finalist;
Pony Credo was published in Little Patuxent Review.