Lithium and the Absence of Desire


Founding Poetry Editor Donna Baier Stein on “Lithium and the Absence of Desire” by Virginia Chase Sutton:

One poet whose work leapt out of the slush pile in the early years of BLR was Virginia Chase Sutton. She tackled the subject of mental illness with strength and grace. She wrote about depression's "gray clouds...shriveling the shoreline" and the manic sense of a sun "as it burns rock to fire." Her poems were filled with grit and love. Her narrators helped their own and their loved ones' periodic journeys through dark fields. In 2005, we published "Lithium and the Absence of Desire." The narrator in this poem swallows a pill that brings on "winter's amnesia" -- "How you will miss it, the tug and pull at the body's sweet dampness." Virginia's is a brave voice. It acknowledges what our minds can do and what must be done to manage them. She went on to publish in Paris Review, Ploughshares, Boulevard, and many other journals and anthologies. She's been a finalist for the National Poetry Series, the Walt Whitman Award, The Levis Poetry Prize and other competitions.

Virginia Chase Sutton
Virginia Chase Sutton’s book What Brings You to Del Amo won the Morse Poetry Prize (U Press of New England). Her first book is Embellishments (Chatoyant). Five times nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poems have appeared in Paris Review, Ploughshares, Antioch Review, Boulevard, Western Humanities Review, Witness and many others. She has been the Untermeyer Scholar at Bread Loaf and holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is working on a manuscript titled The Almost Invisible World and a memoir titled Famished.
Spring 2005


"Lithium and the Absence of Desire" appears in BLR V5N1 (Spring 2005).

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Lithium and the Absence of Desire, by Virginia Chase Sutton

It is not advertised on the pill bottle, merely mentioned
in the product description from the drug store.

You have no idea what you are giving away.
Winter’s amnesia is coming. At first it seems impossible

because you live so fully in mossy, rainy lakes. You
have watched pelicans sail over a mirrored surface

just above and just below the water. It is so easy
to shudder beneath a sun as it burns rock to fire over

the island’s bumpy landscape. So you drift all the way in,
dozing in light and soaked color. Here you have lived

more than thirty years, as alive as yesterday’s romantic boil
of rain and hot skies, the fever popping all along your prickling skin.


Donna Baier Stein was one of the BLR's founding poetry editors. She is now the publisher of Tiferet.