The stink of bleach creeps
up my wet gown, a man’s
hand on my back. Praise
the age of sin, I am eight
in this hall of mirrors,
a fount, most sacred place.
I descend, all those feet
lining the lip, heavenly
Father, Son, look down
upon me. I know nothing
better than secrets.
There is no Holy Ghost
inside me. Thrust me
back, down, water floods
mouth, nose, tiny white
panties drenched, then up!
My parents weep into
songs of salvation.
I am terrified. I cannot
show it. In this way,
I have pleased everyone.
THIS BOUNTIFUL WEANING
For Lisa Gionis 1960-2008
A baby can cry, all night, her mother
saying she must learn not to want so much.
Tiny arms flailing, like a hungry bird
she longs for the one who deprives her.
Years later, summer night, how boys watch
girls, their eyes, how they always fall
upon the center of a circle. She says
look what I can do as she contorts
her arms, shoulder blades poking
as if she had wings. They laugh,
mouths to ears, the whoosh of air
when a secret is passed. Tell me she cries,
as they tie her to a tree so she can’t fly away.
How does one say enough?
Marriage, its blind bargain, all the men
and little children, they must be fed.
And that morning, the barnyard smell
of uneaten eggs. The lack of small
gestures, except for the man smiling
as he fills her bright red gasoline can.
And on bended knees, as she drenches
her body and strikes the match,
as angels lift shovels and skin
sizzles upon the ground,
all she can see is her mother’s
back, the closing door.
THE FAR REACHING CONSEQUENCE OF INSISTENCE
Ghost track of headlamps in a dark wood,
the oily smear after a body burns.
If I have done this, if there be
iniquity in my hands, let it seep.
The baton, wild. A riot of fingernails
plucking, valves sliding, black holes
whirling in their wild youth.
Do memories echo if imagined?
An inhalation so sharp, pangs
of stones, their clack-rattle
in my uterus. A constellation
of nails behind the Mona Lisa.
An evening, a morning, a fifth day,
then all dead buttons at crosswalks and elevators.
Everything, a beautiful deception.