"Suttee"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
June 15 2010 6:58 AM

"Suttee"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Carol Muske-Dukes  read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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Some go willingly;
Some resist.

The fire in which his body burns
Lights into her thin negligee, her hair—

One way or another: She comes back
From that pyre as ash.

Sati, that nonstop goddess, ignited herself
Like a lighter thumbed open—

Flame like a slit throat—
Gilt-black: the copper-red avenger.

He wants to make love to you one last time.
A widow I know made herself into a nerve

Kite: up, up in smoke. Because he'd blown
Himself away and left her with a fury at him

She could never express. O she burns, burns
In her own bones. What good are the earth's

Rickety steps hacked into the hillside? Ascend,
Ascend, little sheep. He loves me; he loves me not.

I try to stay a step ahead of the flames,
But he's so fast like his hand across my face,

On my throat—the hem catches, then the stitching.
His profile floats up from the raised platform—

One gold ring, two: molten. I had that same dream,
Sati. But now, I swear, I will not go willingly.

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Carol Muske-Dukes is professor of creative writing and English at USC and the author of eight books of poems, most recently Twin Cities.

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