THEY GOT THEMSELVES UP KILLINGLY
He believes in toggle buttons,
and she says, here, wear my scarf
to the one applying fuchsia lipstick.
Sometimes, in photographs
they are illuminated seraphim
smoking cigarettes, smoking
the way they should, dropping
ashes on the eyelids of everyone else.
Fanning coals with those wings.
They aren’t boys or girls,
just hot and soaked with gin.
They kiss each other or in the mirror.
They are mermaid hydra
or a swan Cerberus and the only tears
are alone or over cow-tipping.
So what if there’re kids to care for,
jobs to keep. There is ardor
in their laughter. They laugh,
because, why not?
Caring is the biggest joke.
They high five for days.
THE CREATURE REGARDED HER BALEFULLY
of a teacup. There’s no way
you knew it was coming.
You weren’t raised
to distrust translucency up
against lights. Your parents
aren’t terrible—the kind who shake
or curse or bathe your wounds
in alcohol while thinking
I hate myself, my job’s a joke.
No, yours are stupid. You are too.
I hide under the lip of beautiful
things, ride on the lick of an envelope;
you won’t know that I knew your tongue,
everywhere it went—it sealed cigarettes,
kissed babies and many young men,
tasted yarns; it grew and dripped, is still
dripping. I’m in your systolic dance
banging on the insides, sad fuck beats,
like from a car of young men
who don’t know anything but appetites.
Tomorrow you’ll wake wet
wondering if you really did drown,
if the school bus barreling down
highway 12 really filled up
with water that tastes like where
your hand was last, a salt popsicle.
Was it taken over by children & strangers
& lovers all drowning, coughing sand
& bikinis & rainbow beach umbrellas.
SHE BELIEVES IN THE AFTERLIFE
After I couldn’t pay for my dental work
I let him comfort me in the worst of places,
the orange wool couch where
our skin reciprocated fabric.
He found me numb
from cleft to cheekbone
crying into my payment plan.
His name was Canyon or Cannonball.
Anyway, I forgot and called out God
like I used to do in secret when I was
twelve and the only one wearing a bra.
I left my damsel shoes on
and touched the news, or Canyon’s back.
Nothing new either way.
Same old rolling train, cup of juice, messy hair
and molded roses. The birds howled and the cages
smelled of awful me-grief.
My place ain’t a shelter, but stone and rage.
A choir somewhere sang cry cry cry
while God’s kisses hurt like thunder.
There’s gonna be a next life
when I won’t have to honey on by.
I’ll remember a time when maybe I loved someone,
but I’m not sure when.
Today, he was fast and done.
Tomorrow, my smile will never be cheaper.
ALCOHOL IS IN IT!
Emily puts the rind of lime
in her mouth, and closes her eyes.
Delores fingers the bead
dangling from the end of her gold
necklace. Sometimes Lola wonders
if her toes might taste like cherries.
Regina chews the end of her black
pencil and all the girls sigh some.
It isn’t always night, but slants
of color, like Christmas lights, hazy
and on all night long, forgotten
daytime. It’s a queue, it’s waiting around,
it’s moving clocklike. There are rules,
ones they can’t break no matter
their keening, no matter strange syntax.
No matter. Ruby will touch
the back of a spoon to her lips
for an hour and Sister Lenora reads
fables out loud. Claire pretends
to speak in tongues just to feel
a clucking in the base of her throat.
Amanda’s legs are soft and shaky.
Amanda’s dreams have bears
and snakes. Amanda keeps her mouth
shut and the girls come after her,
try to hold her nose so she’ll open
up, so she’ll fog up car windows
and write her name in them. Amanda
runs and thinks about hunting a deer,
about the hard handle of a gun.