It Stays with You
You could put it behind you, leaving scar tissue under eye folds, cobwebs in spear closets, photos of your missing sister in a bow-front chest without knobs. Leaving this small town of Sunday misfits, of women with broken arrow pasts, you feel as powerful as the vampire-sleek girl who ruined so many potholed lives at the drive-in, stood up boastful freckled-armed boys behind the Wal-Mart. The one who kept the ashes of her favorite Munchkin cat in a tin. An hourglass-shaped girl in zebra-print shirts, she hurt you with the spaces between her words. You compared her to some bird of China--a bee-eater, a quetzal, a barbet. Who could afford the distance? You still wear her bite marks on your skin. Before strangers, before job interviewers, you contain your constant thirst. In the failed heart of this city, water leaks from pipes. You'll die in the dry heat of an afternoon. The dogs too skinny to dream. The birds with wet feet.
Deep Rich Wish
We are the unlucky 15% of all species that are not beetles & other insects. As a duo, we are not versatile. We prey on each other or switch pillows & dream of sucking the other's favorite plant. I dream of snout or a thrip that crawls along a mirror, ruining your ingrained grooming habits. You probably lament the bed that can no longer hold honey. It leaks the puddle of us. We are mostly water & memory of whirligig & hard crumbs. In conversations with researchers I describe your eyes as small, dark, & simple. I never talk about bite-marks, the plight of not having wings, or larviform angst. In another life, our legs will be widened & spined for digging into rich soil. At the tilt of the sun, at the dropping of the word "love," our smiles will turn glow-worm.
The mother once told Alicia that love starts out as a happy puppy but ends up as lice and some serious ticks. She died from so many bruises under the skin, three clots that ruined her night vision. What she did leave Alicia were the small but resilient lives of elderberries, Nodding onions, Japanese Knotweed. In the garden, on Alicia's ceiling--always the same footprint. She had dreams of her mother raiding the nests of wild honey bees. Throughout the years, a gaggle of lovers ruined her stews, left her skin itching. Her ears rang with their tasteless jokes. When love came, it was in the form of a man mysterious as a medieval monk. She made him Pumpkin Kugel and she blanched sweet corn. He gave her a fistful of Stinging Nettle to quell the inflammation left by previous suitors. If only love could be as healthy as ghee, he told her. He cleaned her house of feathers. She asked him to stay forever, but he revealed that he was dying of a twisted heart. She buried him out back in a domed straw skep, the very one he built. She left him with a sealed jar of honey and her invisible fingerprints.
I told her to close the door. She was letting all the horseflies in. I was sitting there missing my right arm. I knew she had taken it. Yes, she admitted, she took my right arm when I wasn't looking, when I was making love to another woman. The one with sealed lips, a mute way of screaming that she never belonged. The woman who took my arm said she always loved it for its musculature, the well-developed triple head, the knotty forearm, the thick fingers that never let go. She slept with it between her legs at night. She'd never use it, she promised, for such mundane activities, such as back scratching or clearing tables. Trying to get off track, she compared love to a dim light and a child who can never go to sleep. I asked her to leave and to shut the door tightly. With my left hand covering my eyes, I never wanted to see her again. I didn't want at all. A promise.