Back to Issue Forty-Two

From Excess Sonnets


I must call you to deliver devastating news.
The Mets will lose the World Series. Your sister was struck
by a golf cart. The bathtub you left running has overflowed
its rim, leaked through the ceiling. I am obligated to inform you that
my employer shall henceforth hold all rights

to the excesses of your anguish, to be packaged and sold.
Please forgive our methods, last resorts. We tried Tinder; you swiped
left. We tried clickbait headlines but you found alternate
news. Devastation was the only feeling

you wouldn’t ignore. Now I must thank you
for your time, your valuable tears. To the attention of our lawyers
you may bring any grievances incurred
by our business model.

After hours, I take a peek above my paygrade. There your griefs
I find greening, sponging up the rain.



Like a dial tone through a receiver, I feel elegy move through me.
It clears the mind, this frequency,
lament. In my wake I leave a hundred unheard
voicemails, an unfinished landscape project, a renovated bathroom.
I tear up. Then I tear up

the town. At birth, I was delivered head-first,
discursive, blue in the face
from lack of oxygen,
was delivered like a speech. Now I only speak in words

torn to pieces by my teeth.
Infrared ad infinitum. Expensive oxygen. Lamentable, unfinished
syllables. Lyric in my teeth.
I read sentences over

and over until they complete, I read
sentences over and over until they feel complete, complete.



I tear down the scaffolding
on a lyric meant to self-destruct. Not
a mine or a rocket, but a language turned volatile.
I ask for the nearest exit, by telephone sales reps
am instructed to piece together A Body

for Every Body, buy a bucket
of paint to Cover the Earth. The clouds are a system
of government, a heightening voltage. Speech I sloganize.
In lieu of a door, a window

looking on my own obsolescence,
through which I must pass. I awake
100 miles due east of Des Moines
in the custody of my body. We make a hilarious pair.

Into the inclement weather we pedal our shiny bicycle
into the widening void of sleet.


Isabel Prioleau is a student at Yale University, where she researches contemporary African American poetry for the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library and has read for the Yale Review. Most recently, she is a 2022 winner of Yale’s J. Edward Meeker Prize for Poetry and a finalist for the 2022 Adroit Prize for Poetry. Isabel is based in Asheville, North Carolina.

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