about the author

Sarah Viren is a writer and translator living in West Texas. Her writing has appeared in AGNI, the Iowa Review, Guernica, DIAGRAM, Ploughshares, and other magazines. Her essay collection, Mine, won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Award and is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press.

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Two Poems 

Sarah Viren


We had foam core doors for all our doors
and the door in the kitchen that led to the basement

was no different, except that it bore a cracked hole
from the time my dad, sputtering, kicked it instead

of kicking one of us, and except that it was open
the one time my sister was a baby and I was four.

The tiles were small, thick and, risen around the caulked
grooves we’d trace with fingers, like corvettes running

the grid of a much bigger city, and they clicked like horse’s
hooves when my sister strollered over them in her walker

while we watched her gawkish body bucking inside
the structure’s confines, and we knew she was powerless.

The basement at the base of the stairs beyond the open
door was all concrete and little light, like the hell

we were told about, except that suddenly it was us
who could send someone there, not us who would be sent there

against our will, and knowing that changed everything:
the kitchen, my sister, the tiles, the foam core door, the dark

twinkling light of the basement, the names we would call ourselves
forever and after that, thirty years now running, I still remember wanting

to do what we did.

The Variations of Terror

A terrier is a terror
A rat a train
To the north
Or the north      north
East is the station
Trees are torsi
In reverse
Air a taser
Then a hiss
Then a thin shirt
To satiate is to roast
To veer to stiff
A ration is a tent
Or three          or none
A river a tear
In this fat tart
A tine hits a note
A tire—no a tenor
Is hit
This verse as it is
She is trash
The shot is the terror
This event a non-
Event to the north
Is a terrier
Its tits are torn           rent
The terror is the train
That trains
on one

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