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Kathryn Zurlo

Midnight Ave Marias

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He came from one of the Carolinas.
Moonshine kisses tainted my Sunday-
white dress. Cloudtwang cornering me,
he smuggled sentences through
my northern innocence,

bled out my ah's at the end
of chowdah, swapping the correct
-er version for every improperly
clipped suffix.

Only the o's sound Southern,
the long o's: ode, home, charcoal,
and abode taking over a, u, sometimes
e, with imperfect lip percussions.

He left for a Southern belle in a pile
of ripped goose down, my hands trussed
with typewriter ribbon. He used his imperfect
lip percussions to close the moment,

letting his o's howl
through my tousled locks.

And Now I'm Not Wearing Any Rings at All

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Hallway in the English Department: Her body is sectioned into faculty mailboxes.
Long legs, crossed, dangle from one box, her auburn ponytail from another.
His fingers tangle her hair into knots, her hands squeezing last night's panties,
still in her pocket.

Room 221, Doble Hall: Her hair is electrified, blurring her vision, shirt wrinkled from
the pile on the floor where he left it. Her plaid skirt exposes her legs up to her
garter line, his hands prying open her thighs.

Page 37 in After Hartford: Marry me, poet, student love waiting for her conference,
underwear collected after you curled into my notebook bed. Marry me for my
publications, my girlfriend who doesn't need to know.

Seat in back right-hand corner of auditorium: She leaves her gum on the fabric while
masturbating with pen to come into her notebook, stealing his lines as they
spill into the audience.

Mirror over sink in men's bathroom: Her face is reflected in the cold water. Cupping
her face in his hands, her tongue slides through his palms.

Ceramics lab, upstairs: Clay dust ages his hair. She dismounted from him on the only
stool, metal. Space for one held sex for two. Taping her mouth closed in a half
smile, he handcuffed her while she struggled, brushing stray hairs away from
her forehead.

Open Mouth, Insert Human

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A complexion on the pale side, accentuated by evergreen
brushed on with eye shadow leftovers
from Mom's old makeup case. One glass eye offered a peek
into its cycloptic cornea, an evil orb that lays the future
over bum-infested cement steps.

The air conditioner growing like a wart above the stairs
excreted water every summer for hookers
to ruin their Daisy Dukes if they sit down.
Could the cracks in the wooden stairs have sealed themselves
with discount wrinkle reducer, bought at Walgreens?

Windows spotted the pale skin, held a mirror image
in the building just thirteen feet away, blinds filtering
family secrets. Two large wooden-planked lips pierced
with rope lighting held us on lazy summer days,
Ah! the most stylish lips in the city.

Holding together the top two floors, identical twins outside,
fraternal within, sat atop the print shop, first floor.
One spike was stuck with shingles, the only pointed spot
on the Midwestern plain roof. I slipped between the planked lips,
into his mouth. I ran my finger along the wallpaper esophagus;

his insides stayed the same, tiny flower prints across
hallway walls. The kitchen was arranged, like after someone
passed away and the family extracted all the insides.
The dining cavity never could understand what it was
supposed to be, since we always ate dinner in the kitchen.

I slithered along the lining to the small intestine
of my living room: TV, dining room table, space heater,
they all hummed the same pitch. Flaps of skin-colored sheets
closed off the three bedrooms. I peeked behind one; blackness
and shredded rug stuck out its tongue. The carpeted stairs were worn,

hardwood cracked an eye open through the bare threads.
I was careful not to puncture the large intestine on my way
upstairs since that door was open, cigarette smoke pouring out.
The living room was painted a puke green, while the upright
piano still hung out in the same corner. The French doors were closed;

I pushed through. A man smoking a Marlboro sat at the round
kitchen table in a black fleece, his wild hair graying.
I knew my hair was infested by the foul smelling disease.
He cocked his head towards a chair, and I wiped it
with one finger, then walked towards my old bedroom.

My mural had been scrubbed off; the skeleton was still vaguely there.
My shelf filled with cheap makeup still hung on the wall.
What happened to my brother's room?
This cavity was the same awful green color, one smoking cigarette
left alone in the stolen ashtray grandma took from a hotel.

A table with Wild Nights written in permanent marker
indented the beige Berber carpeting, the same one I played
decapitate Barbie on. His insides seemed to be fine,
functioning in a relatively sane manner for a house
with a cross-dressing human.


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Age six: gym class.
We played Bubbleland.
All children hopped into rubberized bubbles
while nuns rode tanks, armed with robotic
spanking arms wielding yardsticks.

Eighth grade: mom told all her friends
when I got my period. She had a party
with a giant vagina piñata; they let me whack it.
It rained a combination of squished tomatoes
and blood oranges.

Age nineteen: I walked in on dad
wearing makeup and life-size paper doll clothes.
He peeled back the skin on his face
and said, "Katie, I'm half collage.
Please don't tell your mother.
She wanted me to wait until you were older."

My birthday, age twenty-two.
The Little Mermaid ice sculpture
revealed a hidden penis which,
in the VHS version of my movie,
turned into Ursula, then
disappeared with my virginity.

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