May 2001

Suzanne Burns


Suzanne Burns' first full-length poetry collection will debut from Archer Books of Santa Monica later in 2001. She is currently completing her second collection, Freaks and Fairy Tales. Her poetry has appeared in several national journals including Pif Magazine, Poetry Motel, The Lucid Stone, CQ, The Manzanita Quarterly, and in Britain in Still Magazine and Poems in the Waiting Room.

Snow White   

Paparazzi flashed, “Smile, Ms. White.” My coveted iconography, the blood
Reddening my lips, rumored to inspire the next Fellini. At my last Big Apple
Premiere the press, in a New York Times coronation, crowned me the cinema queen.
For a starlet adoration is the thing. They dubbed me a rising orb, my complexion white
As snow. After my Hollywood opening, a critical thumbs-up affair, the Daily Mirror
Headline read, “Our Southern California Doll. Snow White’s the Fairest of Them All!”

But now my cancer spreads. Tumors outsmart my breast. My glory, all
My shining décolletage removed in an anti-cancer manifesto. My blood,
Ignited in war, de-canonizes my body with disease. Like weeds, like cracks in a mirror,
The choice of retaining no choice is clear. Chemotherapy gleans like an apple
In my lover’s eye. My doctor, a lover translating poison, imploring a cure.
His coat, white as the pallor of my skin, instills pity. Will he be responsible for the death of a queen?

Recovering at home, implements of sickness—pills, compresses—crowd the queen
In her king-size bed. Predicting my death, the media impeached my Oscar nomination, all
The coverage touting me the model for mastectomy. If I was a portico, white
Marble bones supporting my condemned structure, I would strip off my blood
And not remodel. My agent, cunning as the step-mom in a fairy tale, sent over an Apple
Computer to catch up on my electronic fan mail. I stare at the blank screen like a mirror.

I need to flee from here. My reflection in every mirror
Retains the texture of torn threads. The dead might need a new queen,
But not me. Journeying beyond the Hollywood hills, I replace the yellow apples
Lodged on my cheeks with blushing new buds. The rocky expanse of the highest peak, all
Trails tree-lined and steep, presents a view of the sun at night, chilling its fire-blood,
Allowing the moon her turn. There, the only seen intrusion is her circle of white,

A forested sanctity. I carry seven dwarf candles. Composing speeches on the white
Podiums of wax, I whisper a prayer, then light each stick and burn the ash. A mirror
Of night blankets my overlook. On a break from chemotherapy, my blood
For a week reclaims harmony from its dyslexic beat. The air shivers my toes. Queen
Mab, I suppose, arranging flowers at my feet. The wax in seven coats, all
The wicks winking black lashes at my body, shines under the moon, an apple

Ripe enough to eat. One scattered seed may harness the rudiments of an apple
Orchard. This meditation is my beginning. A marathon of cleansing the white
Shadow from my black bones. The exodus home to remove the changeling clinging to all
My sufferings like a spider hidden behind the glass eye of a doll. I will be well, a mirror
Of health, skin shedding its sick shingles like tarnish silvering from the crown of a queen.
I feel the presence of remission, Divine Intervention between my Maker and my blood.

The blood of fame flows in golden rolls, but money will not coax an apple
From its seed, nor cancer from a queen. The absence of sound is not black but white.
Silence, a self-reflecting mirror, can show hope to even the sickest of them all.



Suzanne Burns: Poetry
Copyright © 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 16The Cortland Review