The former lover comes in close for the lash, the red slice,
and I’m the shushed, witness to erased seconds of tape,
more tattle from that snitch on the take, the other girlfriend,
a quisling in the dunes after her silver got polished,
after the circus bats fled, slavery turning them feral,
banishment high above the fields. In the hospital’s white
sky, a penis is sewn above my labia majora after a year
of prepping and the lover forever insisting on the why—
I mean who doesn’t want their sex changed?
I intend to rise from this bed, rodded and routed
with sperm ducts while the lover stays tied to the whipping
post and I witness his bonfire ascend, a column rigid
with the cold steel of Pittsburgh greats to buoy me
beyond his lost. I want to return to mirth—after the lover
gets sluiced to fours, muscle from his spine, never again to pogo
the Brooklyn Bridge, brownstone ironwork behind him,
every brick lane weary with salt and the retro-rusted
tailings of the port still sloughing through the sighs of fallen
Dutchmen, the Manahatta even now with the blackjack
and the croupiers back. Because it’s time to quit, if I’m going
to knit a sweater for Elvis or the King of Pop, if I want to travel
to Spain, be on the plain in the rain like that Broadway
musical two guys in Tin Pan Alley wrote for Rex Harrison
to enunciate himself into the pantheon of camp.
Outside the clinic, the former lover waits, announces
what beans he needs to spill—now, after the fact.
He made all of us pretend, a run-amok Ouija held by
fingernails, the others dreaming, their questions
already written off because he was the one who got to say
who would and would not survive his booty call.
But now—after the bloodied rills, two skinned knees,
all those nights forgetting to let my hands scrape
his hard dermis, to hurry, push the topsoil under,
weave hot summer’s dark between his rows of corn—
I have the body that fits. And I’d rather wake in a foyer
with pearly gates, upchuck my ambrosia, enter hypnosis
like someone walking after she sleeps, I’m so grateful
to be loosened from his reins. My stitches are bursting
and the ether tastes like bread rising on a gangplank board
and the ugliest boy in the clinical trial waits, naked
but for his jock-strap, the elastic band a white leer of bait
for the lover’s latest game. Will he remember me here
on this gurney, watching, wheels in lock? Because he will never
again screw me, never rest in weeds with the buzzards above
to mollify his shame, to let it lift like a pie weight from his chest.
Every morning the bright and every evening the hush
and I used to believe Buddha sat under that tree, maybe rose
from the operating table and wandered the doors of this ward,
eager for the gauze to part, to strangle the lover in a loincloth
dhoti shroud. In the recovery room, I cut my fingers with magazines,
preferring to score guts to pulp, the inside of a grape,
stuff the bunch between my legs, eager for their clutch
to seal my cervix, compost me in. In Los Angeles,
Michael Jackson is injected, breaks into bits,
is stopped from forever seeing his children dancing
with the floodlights. By now his nails have grown back
and his hair climbs the walls of the canyon the coroner made,
and likely he’s thrilled to moon-walk in stilts above the earth.
But I have to stay, up until midnight so I can pantomime
with this door ajar, kept company by bandages, and wait
for lust to return with his hairy palms and pumiced feet.
Endurance is made of gasps and clods and fast
like hyperventilation, ending long after there is anything
left of the lover to endure, the machete of his night raids cooled.
It looms, a pox spreading with a sneeze, a few nurses falling,
the doctors brave on the tightrope strung in the emergency tent,
unwrapping a syringe, the one I have been waiting for
all day, all my life, to miraculously receive.
Like a sun break swallowing pessimism’s reign,
she was his love-tossed narrative, swiping at destruction
on a picnic table’s top. All evening, a crop duster
calibrated its fly-bys over their never-brokered truce,
the August corn taunting with its raggedy plaits.
Into an empty row they burrowed, infidels afield,
holed up with the forbidden where it became
easier to plead for after-the-fact forgiveness
rather than end their slurry of rot and heat.
Of course, he insisted it was rapture, their communion
divine, an unasked-for blessing they’d broadcast
on every fallow field. But always a voice said:
Emerge, disperse, and cultivate such wicked with your feet.
So they separated their weight and plowed back touch,
furloughs beyond its cotton-boll crawl.
In that last sun’s light, they were weevils
hurrying to flit and re-robe. As if to sow time,
their catalogued their lust, its fermenting berries and yeast,
and still the night came. Languorous with ruin,
penance raining like pennies from their hands,
they sidled off and apart, and returned to their lies.
The great and the mighty were teeming,
abundance in a world bereft of pocket
protectors and handkerchiefs. We rattled
our corridors in chains, standing, walking,
sitting, lying—never too long in one position.
Heavenly breathless, we swanked like the peacock,
ping-ponged across a lit match. It was always
better on stage than in an airplane bathroom.
Fools suffered gladly, we two, giddily down,
down, down the dark ladder to hole up
in a phone booth, a mud hut, a hush-hush
rumble seat. Underfoot? The lowly who never know
when to rise up. My arms over my head stretched
sourdough, and I believe you did knead me
into clouds, and forever piloted our Vesuvius
to taming because those swimming
spermatozoa had to end up somewhere.
With a three-ring binder and three-holed paper
we scored how in the inner eye of ravishment?
A perfect 10, even with the contravening winds.
lives and writes in Portland, Oregon where she's worked with David Biespiel, Matthew Dickman, and Kathleen Halme among others. She hails from the anthracite coal country of northeastern Pennsylvania and somehow, at an early age, fell in love with words instead of into a sinkhole or our then-polluted Susquehanna River. She attended Oberlin College, Cornell University, and have an M.A. in Creative Writing from SUNY at Binghamton. She recently penned her six-word memoir: Teetered on the precipice then jumped. Into the vast, welcoming vat of poetry for what feels like forever. I love how it wrinkles my skin. More at