The Sugar Borders

William Fuller

1993 • 56 pp. • $12.95
ISBN: 9781882022182

Out of Print

“At first it sounded like a saying we once knew, like some down-home, homespun affair, like saying we must’ve grown up in another childhood, maybe a life where we live in some interstellar Midwest, on a dream-farm or ranch, where local people have constellation-raisings and quilting dragonflies. Down there on the sugar borders, their stories engraved so succinctly in the riverbed or Milky Way they’re almost erased, lore in three-part harmony worn away with tender use like maps of airs, song hovering between the page and the eye, the hand and the mind. ‘Feed your heart to the rotting mind.’ And he does, and we do. Words fall into place, a progressive past tense charting action from its sometimes ominous further reaches to the more immediate almost-present, and where is the future in ritual observation? Does it cast a shadow, leave an echo? Love and the letter of love. But what is the nature of this space between dream, wind, dinner, color and the alphabet? It’s our birthday everyday, and ‘We each get an earth to eat…’ in the telescopic syntax of these Sugar Borders. Sugar borders terror where the iridescent dust of verse begins to shake a darker spell out of the bundled predicates. You want to keep opening this book, and opening it.”
—Norma Cole

“In The Sugar Borders, William Fuller creates a flat space of ‘middles’ which is everywhere, ‘the cave of all.’ The viewer is up so close seeing oneself that one’s/its ‘wet muscles repose there.’ As if one hallucinates oneself having a dream , one sees oneself who’s any viewer being the ‘natural world’ where ‘we’ fly and ‘pigeons sit down to their meal, without bodies.’ This writing puts pressure on its space to view realistically by its ‘flat/objective’ approach with no view that proscribes or ‘understands’: ‘The upper part of the world lives on an island, fishing in flames.’ …imagery as perverse and baffling as that constructed in dreams, echoed in folktales and children’s rhymes, circulated as magic and superstition…These are poems which create the conditions for an experience of ‘negative capability.’ Yes. Small and terrific reversals and contradictions, untenanted space looming through the rifts of images. ‘I see your bones, your bones see me.’”
—Beverly Dahlen


William Fuller is an American poet who was born in 1953 in Barrington, Illinois. He received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia in 1983 and published his first full-length book, BYT, with the Oakland-based O Books in 1989. His other books are THE SUGAR BORDES (O Books, 1993), AETHER (Gaz, 1998), SADLY (Flood Editions, 2003), WATCHWORD (Flood Editions, 2006), and HALLUCINATION (Flood Editions, 2011). His chapbooks include The Coal Jealousies (1987), THE CENTRAL READER (Paradigm Press, 1999), Three Poems (2000), Roll (2000), Avoid Activity(2003), and Dry Land (2006). He is chief fiduciary officer of the Northern Trust Company in Chicago.


The Goat Keeper’s Garden

Happily enter the green world, above the pond. Eat the drunken flowers. Far into the forest, a wasp, a gnat. A great mouth makes wine.


Viewed in a toy mirror, the moon rocks you to sleep. The hooded monkey stares. Roots in the lungs of the earth, crickets in the ditch. Close your mossy brow, spin your hollow span.

The Pumpkin Eater

At daybreak, geese howl, sometime merry, sometime sad.

Jack with fire in his hair and hair in his heart. Then the clouds broke and ate us all.


The black rhyme cuts your bones, toxic and carnal, three-lobed, but only one is true. Touched with incoming power, Alpha Scorpii.

When He Was an Egg

These are the lips of the land of cream. Jubal, the bird, turns silver. Wednesday, Thursday, fall upon straw. His squinting fish with almond thumbs. We stand on glass, eating rags. We live in the third-person, looking back. Our parrot speaks for us.

Zodiacal Light

Whose little pigs are these? Emptiness clears the hill. Rain darkens the stream scanning for colors. From the narrowest pass in the pen they squint, thinkers of the gorge.

Pitch & Mourners

Love ekes out a goat, ardent on its eggshell. Off to the ascension, with corrugated cash. ‘Oh it’s tight like this’ says Aiken drum; and the wind flies up to the moon.

Now We Are None

The eye is a forest; it has bristles. There are wooden bats and braille frogs, studded spheres and sickbeds. Strange motions in the stars. The wicked in baskets, their shadows boiled. Their hair grows heavy in the weird light. down the grey sides of the birth of love. Night the saturnine, with neat balm and sweet snow cloud, sinks back into the glow.


Jumped in a bag and broke my bones. Don’t take no righteousness. Staring into the camera, knees on fire. O the brambles rage by the cinnabar.


In meadows of ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, it rains in my hand, underwater, with small mirrors

leaking, pouring, dumping