Sheree La Puma

Death by Cholera in 4 Movements

Scarlet: Burning and Cooling by John Tuttle

1st movement – impulse

I went to rehab twice, once
for guilt, once for depression,
surviving the crash that starts
with mother. More than a crash,
a massacre. 10 pounds of sorrow
in my fingertips, forced to color,
other people’s dreams.
thirsting for a blank ~


2nd movement – love

I am the struggle, day into night,
suicidal joy, private/intimate, the story
that lives inside you like a French
poem, like the island of the dead,
not dead, death reworked,
like Pathétique, by Tchaikovsky.
An ode to love comes in waves. I’ve
yet to catch my ~


3rd movement – disappointment

The New Year finds me low
& tolling, an itty-bitty ball of rage,
carving ice sculptures out of grief.
An inevitable decent.
Doesn’t everyone have a hole
they sink into? Personal pain
if it dies, as it should, is a final
coups-de-théâtre. I am dreaming of
my own ~


4th movement – melancholy

When we were strangers, I sang
poetry. It rolled off my tongue, raw
& wild, thick as honey, full of life
& possibility. 30 years later,
a crippled waltz, emptyof victory.
I want to reinvent
happy. No more love-by-numbers,
The last thing you say before dying,
“I’m glad you’re alone.”
I expire ~
into silence.


About the writer:
Sheree La Puma is an award-winning writer whose personal essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in or are forthcoming in Burningword Literary Journal, I-70 Review, Crack The Spine, Mad Swirl, The London Reader, Gravel, Foliate Oak, Pacific Review, Westwind and Ginosko Literary Review, among others. She received an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and taught poetry to former gang members. Born in Los Angeles; she now resides in Valencia, California, with her rescues, Bello cat and Jack, the dog.

Image: Scarlet: Burning and Cooling by John Tuttle. Fine art photograph. No technical information specified. No date specified. By permission. Tuttle is a writer, photographer, video maker, blogger, and e-book author.