I wake, swollen with noon heat.
Half dressed, I stumble,
elbows and toes catching
on the clawed feet of chairs,
the blunt holes of open cupboards.
I sometimes forget my name.
In the kitchen, I pepper the rice
instead of salt. Black flecks surface
in the boiling water,
sea turtles migrating.
If I knew where you went,
I would follow. But all you left behind
was an old sweater, an empty notebook,
complete and infinite
as the space around a closed fist.
I dream, the earth splitting like a cracked egg,
Light thinning like dye in water.
Air hardens until we burrow.
I wake wanting to know if we will fall.
An apocalypse is an ending
This is a becoming.
Chagall's goatChagall's Goat
Chagall's goat floats, a bristly bemused balloon.
Below a wedding couple waltzes.
They are so in love with heft,
the sinew and softness of each other's body.
We never waltzed, but still we spin, dazed
and panting, caught in a ring of frustration
and exultation. We released each other's hands,
but we wake still wound in the other's arms.
Chagall's goat has eluded that weight.
She doesn't need anyone. I know myself
only by fitting myself to your wanting.
While above, she prances, pure, solitary
and unknowing. The yellow of her hide flows
past the boundaries of her body until
everything she sees, she breathes is her
Cin has always hated him, the garish tricolor hat, the white powdered curls fat as sausages, the tiny American flag clutched in his wooden hand. Her mother had bought the minuteman jack-in-the-box as a memento of the Bicentennial, placed him next to the miniature spinning wheel on top of the piano. She said it was her patriotic duty to buy kitsch.
But then Cin has always hated any jack-in-the-box with or without sausage curls: the tinny music, the notes thin and shallow as a metal file. As a child, she would crank the handle knowing a cloth and china monster will eventually spring out with a leering smile. Still they fascinated her.
Even now when no one was looking, she would slowly crank the mechanical minuteman, straining to see the moment the lid would snap back, revealing a grinning painted gargoyle soldier. She knew he would always pounce at the same moment in the tune no matter how slowly she twisted the handle. Still every time it startled her, a monster predictable an
"Louie," they called her. Not Louise. "Louie, Louie," her father would sing, nonsense syllables bebopping in his mouth, his voice making her nose wiggle like it does when he smokes cigarettes, "Louie, Louie, Louizze. Louie, Louie, Louieooi."
Louie pushes her boat further into the wild blue yonder of the parking lot. She fashioned it out of a torn piece of cardboard, a toothpick crowned with mustard yellow confetti sprung from a Denny's sandwich. It sails brave and bold on a puddle of diet Coke.
Her brother shoots rubber tipped arrows, Comanche Chief specials, at the cars in the lot. One of the arrows hit a wood panel station wagon with a dull ping. "You die. You die," he yells, a David trouncing Goliath.
Louie blows on the newspaper sail. Her mother washes herself in the bathroom sink with rough paper towels and pink liquid soap. She rubs at the shadows beneath her eyes, hoping the shadows are road grit instead of exhaustion and endless Highway 88 talk radio.
They're traveling to
You cut to tatters my red skirt, the red of Jezebel's blood.
You wear black pants, white shirts. You want to be a preacher,
God's words cleansing you. "How many angels
can dance on the head of a needle," I ask?
The dogs drink until their muzzles are painted tongues, arthuriums.
And somewhere else a king sends his beloved's husband
into a battle where he will die. Maybe the dogs will drink his blood
and transcend into feathers. His blood is innocent
caked with sand and grit, hard as a pea. The princess shivers sleepless,
a hard knot of something unknown prodding her spine.
My heart knots whenever I see you with love and sin.
When you hold me down, your fingers spread like twigs
from my shoulders. I fall, wanting you not God.
"They have no bodies," you whisper, "That is grace."
Redemption is a stone you suck on to forget the taste
of my skin, thirst. The princess wakes wanting red wine,
no unknowns, nothing that can touch and prick,
leaving a slow bleeding inside. Oblivion not abs
When the pitcher hits the wall,
it doesn't break, but your leg does.
We are green, so young, we think pain
is simply another measure of love.
The scar puckers where the bone broke skin.
He kisses it, "my little angel,"
he murmurs. He never touches me,
his other daughter. This is how we know
that only through breaking can anyone love.
"A" is for apple juice. "C" is for cat
who licks the juice pooling
beneath the glass shards. "You didn't put
the damm apple juice back in the refrigerator,"
he screams. The cat's whiskers are translucent
as dragonfly wings. "But angels can fly away,"
you say. Kicks, pinches, slaps are an alphabet
we pour over, hoping to make words, a story,
"Once upon a time, there were two sisters and one
was very good and one was very, very, very ....."
Saints didn't eat very much but then saints are Catholic,
puppets of the Pope, and we are Baptists dunked
in the water of his love. They baptize me when I'm twelve.
The congregation crowding the river, a carnival crowd
"Come see the human pincushion, the alligator boy, cursed
by the Babylonian priest of the moss." But this crowd
is still. They don't have to push to the front for tickets.
"Leanne have you found God," asks Preacher Dowlin?
"Yes, I found him." I answer. He waits for a moment, wanting
the usual firecracker holy babble to tumble from my throat
like an acrobat. "Look folks, no net" But I don't oblige him
so we stand there, people waiting for a bus. The holy roller express.
"And where did you find the Lord, Leanne?" "Hiding behind my parents' bed."
Whenever I want not to be here, I crawl into the space
between my parents' bed and the wall, wedge myself into that rectangle,
happy because no one looks for a person behind their parents' bed.
It was there I felt God in my