29 March 2009

Ennead, Fall 2004.


I. Atalanta

Last night, I woke to his cursing
as he jerked the counterpane tangled by my legs.
"You’re running again," he snarled, and slept,
but I flexed my feet beneath the blanket and felt
my milk-white insteps itching for green.
Time was, there wasn’t a runner anywhere
could touch me, though they tried,
panting and pumping their thighs toward
my flushed victorious body. Even my husband
didn’t beat me, not really. It wasn’t fair.
Those apples were so bright in the sun—
goddesses have fought and lost for less.
Defeated, I pace between bed and kitchen,
my feet as heavy as a lioness’s paws.

II. The Weeping Madonna
This is not the kind of miracle you ask for.
Still in this statue, pushing blood through wood,
I cannot close my eyes or raise a hand to wipe
the stains from my blue and white. I used to wear
red but you have lost my flesh, made me Artemis,
Vesta, TonatzĂ­n. But I bled at his birth,
shed tears as he dies, displayed—carved from,
crossed onto, a tree. They have cut the lines well;
the nose and hipbones are my boy’s, hanging
there still. What you call grace is only grief.

III. the yellow wallpaper
sucking paste from beneath my fingernails
spitting sputum-stained flakes all down my dress
I’ve been hanged askew my patterns misaligned
the edges don’t match so you’ll stare at it
forever it could make you come unglued

IV. Seeing Your Wife
You are the prince
turned into a hind,
and she the foundling
who found you in
a thicket. My heart
soaks my dress, runs
down my ribs to
freeze my feet. No
one knocks at my
tower door. My knight
lies in the heather,
while I spin words
into lead. I thought
we would be like
you, two doves, one
nest. But my shoes
are now not glass,
but iron, too heavy
to tread the dance.

V. The Wyrd Sister
I saw her again today, on the inside of my eyes:
hers are yellow, like an anime cat’s.
We share a shape, but she is made
of solid shadow with wrought-iron bones—
unbreakable, unbleedable, unburnable.
Her laugh would drive you mad.

VI. Running Away to Sea
My aunt ran away to sea
though no one knew at first
what she was doing. Hands
covered in clay on board ship,
she stopped feeling in the heat
that fire that took her house,
that once ran through her head
in horses. She made instead
horses of waves, of brine,
grew used to the giddy horizon.
She shed her husband, shed
the mountains, shed her skin,
and plunged, a selkie, into the sea.

Today I glimpsed her in the mirror
in the humid curls about my face
and in the eyes the urge to run
to the edge of the shore, to dive
in, to lose my sorrow in scales
and fins—to swim for my life.

VII. Unrealized Film Noir Script
I could be the bad girl
lipstick like a stoplight
cigarette smoke exhaled in belly-dancer curves
flashing my garters as I open the suicide door
I would sit on your desk and swing my slingback heels
I would lead you astray

You could be the crooked cop
the gangster who wants out
the P.I. mourning his partner
You wouldn’t believe a word I said
but you’d take my money—and you’d know
that I was trouble the minute you saw me
but trouble is perhaps a chance for redemption
a chance for revenge
a chance for revelation

and they all would be against you
the police department City Hall the richest man in the Valley
you would be like America against the spectre of Communism
that is if you consent to be a symbol

You could be the hero in the shadows
cigar smoke exhaled like the breath from a gun
I would smell of jasmine and Pall Malls
drink whiskey like a man
hide a derringer in my bag to be
coolly pressed against your jugular "I’m sorry Sam
but I’ve got to have that bird"

I could get my just desserts:
"Goddamn it, Charlie, you sold me out"
my upper-class accents gone, back to
the guttersnipe I’ve always been

but no, you’d let me go
for whatever I did as the camera panned away—
this being the Forties that’s no small thing—
maybe I was just a pawn but more likely I was the power behind the plot
the jewel thief the madam the old man’s young wife

"It’s been fun, Phil, but I gotta be going"
with a wink, my false lashes like the vicious green fringe
on a Venus fly trap

VIII. Thirst
My chastity is not a virtue
but a void. These parched lips
cry: your breath, your spit
to damp the need, to lick
the flames. Were you here
to comfort me, I would be lush
green pasture but I am Death
Valley, bone dry.

I do not touch myself.
It doesn’t fool me anymore.

IX. Paralyzed Force of Unobtainable Desire
I played catch-and-release
with his heavy-lidded Romanian eyes
for hours while biting my lower lip
and pulling my shoulders back so my breasts rose
under the $4 shirt I’d just bought in Costa Rica
we groped in a restroom stall the night we met
and I waited for him in the crew bar the rest of the week
(drinking gin and Sunny Delite) got permission to fuck him
in the stateroom I shared with my aunt
obtained condoms

but he worked the breakfast shift all cruise
and wouldn’t kiss me anyway

the redhead baseball player/
philosopher and I saw Joan Jett
discussed Kierkegaard
got muddy up to our knees
Chandra said he was easy, so I
kissed him, it was like tasting
hot chocolate

he’s been in Lawrence
fucking someone else ever since

across the parking lot before I could say no
I said "excuse me" as he mounted his motorcycle
"but you are beautiful and I’ve really enjoyed
staring at you for the past half hour"
I gave him my number before I asked his age—
eighteen—and I thought "I could do eighteen
I could own eighteen"

he never called

still Wednesday nights the guest student flirts with me I swear
but the married one never flirts back

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