Monday, May 30, 2022

Sharon Waller Knutson

BLACK-EYED SUSAN

After the Garden of Eden prophet dies,
two men in suits carry her out
of the commune down to the road,
her long goldilocks waving in the wind.
yellow dress dragging in the dirt,
dark eyes darting like a rabbit
as they deposit her outside the gate
and she yanks on the chains, Let me
back in
, she calls, I can’t breathe.

The prophet taught us to stay inside,
that the air outside was poison gas.

She takes a deep breath of the ocean
air as we walk along the beach
near the Encinitas weekly newspaper
where she writes headlines instead
of making them and I write stories
a decade after the scandal broke.

In pantyhose and skirt to her knees,
her hair its natural brown, Jeanette,
her birth name, recalls the day
she meets the prophet and her life changes.
His hypnotic green eyes stared
right into my soul
, and she boards.
his Volkswagen bus for Laramie
right after graduation from Colorado State.

He names female followers after flowers.
I was his favorite, she says, which is why
his widow had her cast out. The cult leaves
Escondido shortly after that for Des Moines.
I would have done anything for him, she says.

Two decades later, I wonder if she
would have ingested a Euthanasia cocktail,
lay down on her bunk and waited
for a spaceship to beam her up
to Heaven in the Rancho Santa Fe
mansion like the thirty-eight followers
of another prophet with hypnotic eyes.


Gerald So reads "Black-Eyed Susan":



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Sharon confesses: "After watching documentaries of the 25th anniversary of the mass suicide of Heaven’s Gate, I recalled a fellow journalist I worked with who was thrown out of a cult and wondered if she joined another one."


SHARON WALLER KNUTSON is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014) and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021) and Survivors, Saints and Sinners forthcoming by Cyberwit. Her work has also appeared in Black Coffee Review, Terror House Review, Trouvaille Review, ONE ART, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review, and The Song Is...

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