When nights steal in I paint

a house filling with water.


 I make the exit transparent,

front door gray and ghostly beneath


seawater creeping past the baseboards,

sloshing over the table,


dishes awash in salt.

Me and the rest of my body


are waiting for you at the end

of this, creature fear,


as the house-tide rises, almost full

            as I prolong, splatter on the frothy swell,


the murky shallows,

glassy waves that obscure the room—


A finite palette will stump you,

some say. Watch me:


all the shades of blue I can cut

   into white, layer on and scrape off.


Prussian, cobalt,

sheer aquamarine,


depths on depths on depths.

This thirst to conjure disaster.


What should I call it? Like dropping

 a new penny into a well—


I could paint the penny,

 copper in any kind of light.


Or the well, pitch canyon,

dark, and limitless.




She painted pictures

of everything she wanted


and never stopped painting.

I want new leather shoes,


a swoosh of patent black

on canvas. Vases and purses.


A red enamel pan. Beautiful

austerity. This catalogue of desire.


Want in any color, always

the ideal size. A house of things


with no things inside.


I want a perfect pink jacket.

I want a bronze singing bowl


& the little hammer

that makes it sing. I want


an indoor tree that won’t wilt

in this poor light. Then I want to be


a pocket knife, one little tool

that can house so much.


I want to smash the piggy bank

& pillage its silver innards.


The million other lives

I could have lived


in any different dress. The woman

I could have been,


a different silk scarf

cinched around my pretty neck.





Theresa Sullivan earned her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was the Poetry Editor for LUMINA Journal. She was a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee, and her writing has recently appeared in The Fairy Tale Review. She lives and writes near Boston.


photo credit: stephanie roberts  Twitter   Instagram   SoundCloud