Sara Henning

The Things of the World Go On Without Us


No vigil will riot my grandfather’s body,
so I’m holding the May 1987
Rolling Stone cover I find shorn and spliced
between sheaves of his tax returns—Jon Bon

Jovi, leather’s conspiracy of pleasure
sheltering his shoulders, ringed hands grappling
jags of zipper. He’s shirtless, silver
chains, hair banged and teased stiff. Hot Throb:

Bon Jovi, cobalt transversing the cover.
What is desire but a sin of omission?
My grandfather’s talismans—Bon Jovi,
Billy Idol, bodies cloying in tight pants.

Adonises resurrected by manila. His death
like their faces in my hands, aching past ether.


I’m aching past ether, my face in my hands.
Why do we abet our evolutions,

leaf through them in the dark? Rupture is not
the same as rapture, or how I induce him:

grey moustache, Wall Street Journal, lips plush
as he’s reading the numbers–NASDAQ,

the Dow Jones Industrial, statistics
hurtling toward me like starlings into glass.

Not market shares, indices, but cadence
of bodies crushed by a gossamer

too cruel to be soft. What do we name
the martyrs shattering us into eulogy?

Locked office door, photos entombed in manila,
the bodies we closet in the night?


Exile and pleasure
musk our eulogies
like lilies we deadhead
in the dark of us.
What is the body
but an autobiography of secrets—
pretty boys, anthems,
their vibratos smelted

to surges of guitar?
Watch them spiral
through bridges shredding
their bodies electric:
it’s beautiful. He never
lived to watch
the years conspire
against them—broken men

now, broken songs. I shouldn’t
hold what I know
in my hands like this,
some panegyric of paper
he gave himself to,
as if grief and longing
are not sparring
consolations. How he comes

to me now, unrequited,
beatific: hush. This.
The amnesty, no—
the effigy, of paper.


What is amnesty but a failed resurrection?

I recall his anger—a sea nettle

pulsing and flaring in the night-stained deep.

Flushed and plastered, he’d tell my mother—If someone

would hit her, she’d be a better girl. Top-shelf

non sequitur cascading from the office.

He’s regal in his wingback chair, bookshelves

jacketing the perimeter, mahogany

roll-top staunch at the heart. What shape do they

take, the past’s bevels and ruminations

that never belong to us? I’m eight, filling

his martini glass with water, my lips

hovering at the cusp. Milky medusa, I think,

inverted jellyfish. Radiating ghost-striped bell.


There is no ghosting, just opening one’s mouth

to the ether. There is no vigil, just walking

into what’s luminous and remaining

there. Bon Jovi, Billy Idol, or what

I haven’t said—pulp erotica secreted

into Keynesian texts and Time Magazine,

names like Midtown Queen, Summer in Sodom.

A cache of skin mags creased and spent.

Wrecked origami. Cocks at gauche angles.

Men on all fours, every hole abided—

budding iris, tongued pomegranate—a collage

of men inviting me, as if saying:

Until trespass is beauty, the body

does not end. Suffer us its recklessness.


I’ll suffer the trespass—my body, his body.
Summon it until we both are reckless—

sweetest Gale, sorest storm. I’m on my knees now.
Dossiers, cut-outs, a plaque with his monogram—

Honorary Federal Bureaucrat.
A joke, not my hands on his shame.

I’m holding what I can hold. If shame
would abash us, if the storm would stagger us.

Highball glasses constellate the closet
mantle, lime rind helixing from each rim.

If shame would abash us, would we still kneel
at its altar? Let’s latch the door now.

Let’s sink into leather. Tell me—could we
temper shame’s frantic translucence and live?


If I could lie my way out of his life
broken open, would shame still abash us,
would he carry it like this into dusk—
covers glittered with perspiration,

photos lashing him to the tune without words?
Glossies shining with slick florescence,
not the hard young beauties he’d rather hold
between his knees. When we palm these

overtures in the dark, hold them to our chests,
sigh like rutting does, what are they giving us
back but ourselves? As if to say: Lay me
limerant. Lay me blessed projection.

Lay your hands on me. But we’re already
moaning—just lay me down.


Sara Henning is the author of A Sweeter Water (Lavender Ink, 2013), as well as two chapbooks, Garden Effigies (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) and To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Green Mountains Review, Crab Orchard Review, Greensboro Review, and RHINO, and anthologies such as Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (2013). Currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, she serves as Assistant Managing Editor for the South Dakota Review and on the Editorial Board at Sundress Publications.