A Romance NovelA Romance Novel
Underneath the whiskey bottle billboard,
my sister Ellen sells daisies, crocheted potholders
and chocolate stained, water raptured paperbacks.
"A buck a cover," she yells lining up the tabloid bright offerings,
a woman fleeing down a mountain path, a lighted window
the swamp blue of a TV screen. Ellen's trying to get money
so she can marry Rick. She culls the books
from neighbors' shelves, windfall apples.
Mama just shakes her head, fingers stained
with brown sugar and nicotine. "She isn't a little girl anymore."
At dusk when the air sweats, Ellen and I lay in the hammock,
strung between trees. "Lord Roger possessed
the dark wounded brooding air of a caged jungle cat,"
she reads. But the only cat I've seen is the next door tabby,
plush as a fake fur cushion. "Her blood pounded, her breath quickened
whenever he touched her." Does it quicken like it does
when you run uphill playing Cowboys and Indians?
Mama's wash would darken with dusk, Ellen's body a whisker of movement
We camp out in a warehouse, eat three day old sandwiches,
the cheese stiff as cardboard, edges curling.
I start to rock, my hands curled into seed pods,
my mama's rocking chair, maize dust pillow.
She didn't really have a mother so she didn't know
what to do. You feed me chocolate
scraped from a shiny wrapper. "We will be different,"
you promise, pulling me into your lap, your body
falling into the rhythm of my rocking. Then you twist the foil
into a ring, silver as the chrome on my Daddy's T-bird.
He would polish it for hours, his cloth swooping like a bird. He flew away
when I was eight. I flew away when I was sixteen.
I left the same note. "Hi. Can't stay. Love." We had to slip away:
doorway, highway, mudflat thicketed with hubcaps
and tractor parts. "Stay," you whisper, silver
as Mama's painted nails, nicks of moon in the mirror
as she braided my hair, the strands slipping
from her fingers, always coming loose.
Abyss An atonal accelerando, Abyss
An atonal accelerando, the discord of your touch,
your hands reaching towards me, an octave span of rough fingertips.
Once we were consonance, a harmony of skin, the weight of your need.
I was a glide of rice paper between the knees of a kabuki dancer,
while you were the honeyed thrust of a blues singer's voice.
But we played each other, you touching the fluent inner skin of my thighs,
a crescendo, each note an intricate calligraphy.
We swooned like swans, an opera singer breathing a limpid aria,
an immaculate nova.
But now I seek an ocean abyss, glissando where I do not have to touch
simply slant though the stratosphere, the mesh and warp of water.
It will warp me my love, no pearls for eyes just the sibilant light of jellyfish.
I will kiss you, da capo, my fingers already a filament of tentacles.
I will strip your bones if you want,
be a sibilant tender, impudence on your vertebrae, clavicle.
Or else one more time, we can be a knowing minuet.
We will approach, supple restraint,
Faultline There is a break, aFaultline
There is a break,
a thin dark line falling
like a curtain between us.
We still talk, kiss and wake,
bodies twined, But there is pain,
the soft sure grinding
between plates of earth.
It is subtle. Trees, houses, mountains
all seem to stand still.
But every second, I love you less.
Until one day, the crack opens
like a mouth trying to say something
swallowing until all there remains
is a half empty closet,
a note on the kitchen table,
a bed still as a stone.