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Elizabeth Vignali

Artemis Mows the Lawn

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Pull pull pull. Three clumsy masculine strokes,
shudder and resultant roar. Only a man would invent
a machine that needs a hand job before it works.
The neighbors have resigned themselves
to the tableau: weed-wild on head and mound,
moon flesh blurred and unhemmed
and vibrating like a tuning fork. I may
have to mow my lawn (city ordinances,
you know) but you'll never catch me
wearing clothes. White and smudged
around the edges, smooshed into civilization,
I chew the grass in decibel circles
around the rosebushes the damn deer
won't leave alone. Unpruned, thorny and straggled,
they are wild like me and just as bare.

The Body Gifters

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Aunt Jean tells us Aunt Jean is gone.
Instead, she's Andraya: a star child, a stranger,
an alien who traveled from some far-off planet
and walked into Aunt Jean's body.

I don't know the details—whether she steamed to Earth
on a meteor or teleported in a column of blue Star Trek particles
or came on a spaceship with a hundred sister aliens
who now occupy other aunts' bodies.

Regardless, it is now Andraya who stretches to fill
Aunt Jean's skin. She browsed organs, scanned molecular
structures, prodded the thick fingers of optic nerves
and flipped through corded tendons
with the expertise of a seasoned buyer.

Andraya traded sun spots for liver spots, distant galaxies
for a Ford Galaxie. She colored Aunt Jean's platinum
hair, painted her nails fuchsia, propped star-studded
rhinestone sunglasses over her glaucomous eyes.
She rifled through memories
and threw out the broken ones.

Dad calls her "eccentric" when he's being kind,
"crazy" when he's not. He prefers a loss
he can understand. I like my losses less concrete.

When I call her on her birthday, she says she has
Aunt Jean's memories of me. She remembers that hot
Portland summer when I was thirteen, my too-short shorts,
the onion bagels I smeared with marmalade, The Cure
playing through my perpetual headphones.

Afterward, I catch myself testing my own spaces—
swivel corneas across the pink-mapped membranes
of my inner eyelids, hitch the breath hot in my lungs.

I press my fingers to the dull ache that swells
my throat when depression floods my body.
How nice to give it all up,
to welcome in someone who really wants it.

Pilgrimage to the Staircase at Auvers

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We've come a long way carrying our shadows—our mouths blistered, feet parched. Creeping darkly up and down the yellow, we bring no flowers or candles. We leave our shadows as offerings; lay them at the base, stuff them in crevices between the steps. Peeled from our eyes, our thighs, our livers, we plant shadows in grass, wind them around the railing, throw them through windows. They sprout and sink in green swallows and bloom black in the cracks. The yellow stairs suck them up, cast splintered burdens, warp with their weight. We are cleansed. Lightened, we leave.

But every so often sanctitude is too much for someone. She runs back and scavenges shadows—plasters and wraps the lightlessness of others around herself. She is darker, heavier than before, and smiling.

Deianira Rotates the Mattress

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If you were here, Heracles, you could do this for me,
flip it with ease like a musty pancake. The pillowed
landscape reliefs what I already know: you're never home.
All prairie plain on your side and valley on mine. My body busy
divoting the mattress while you're off cauterizing snake necks
with your nephew. But I can manage, even
with my lank arms. The depression where my head was
under your heels, my feet wrapped round your thick neck.
And me with a new impression to make. Look
how the dust whirls in the sunlight, flinted flakes of you
and me swirling like inevitable galaxies.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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I wear your feet around my neck, a pair of fleshy weights with rope tied round the ankles.

They sometimes kick against me, sometimes sway a crescent moon. They thump my chest as I roll out pie dough & tiptoe in circles over the grass while I twist dandelion roots from the lawn.

When I sit, your feet jostle in my lap like children waiting for a story. When I lift my arms in the shower, your toes crevice up under my breasts like mice.

I'd give them back to you but they've gone soft & black around the ankles, your toes purple & wrinkled like grapes forgotten in the fridge behind the mayonnaise & milk.

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