I’m on my knees while Olive plaits my curls, a dozen candles flirting with the air in this small bedroom. Angie is leaning against the wall, pupils like eight balls, smiling at her fingertips. my mother called me last night or last week or last year she told me god came to her in a dream. The fridge is humming, inconsistent and Olive’s hands are quick. she told me that our dog ran away that my father cries in my room whenever he’s sober We shouldn’t be here, the sun dripping down the window, pyramids of light on Olive’s thighs. Someone patters in the other room, no choked sobs, no sacrifice for dewy mornings. Olive says my name soft and worn, like an old boot she isn’t sure fits. Angie knocks over a candle and her shirt catches on fire. For a moment, none of us move.
Cherry Girl, with the long tongue, and the new buzzcut, and the hips like butter, rolls off the sleeping man, wipes her mouth, shoots him in the gut. She read once that bile kills you faster than the bullet. That it spreads, infectious, into your kidneys, your lungs, up into your throat. You should never kiss a corpse. Cherry Girl knows this well. In an apartment in Brooklyn, and Angie was tripping over her mouth and her arms and legs and laughing bumblee songs, and Cherry Girl let her sleep. In an apartment in Brooklyn, and Huck called, came in and starting kissing her and pushing her, murmuring Cherry Cherry, eyes closed and Cherry didn’t know who he was imagining, who he was really kissing. She tells him they need to stop, and he opens wide, sees someone else, Angie or his father or Hercules or all three, his fist hard against her cheek, back cracking against the wall. Cherry Girl lets him touch her and hit her, and only feels the bruises once he’s gone. Morning in Brooklyn, and Cherry Girl shaves her head, asks Marie for a gun. She calls Huck. He answers on the second ring.
Olive, with a gun in her mouth. My nails, scratching at the trigger. Lean thighs in a battered Corolla in the junkyard. After, clouds falling from the sky, and Olive and I doused it in gasoline. The match lit on her arm, smoke trailing us for miles. After, Olive pulls against the tides, and we are frozen in the parking lot, the dead boy forever mid-air, blue and red lights blaring by the tarmac. Olive, in the supermarket and I pocket wheels of cheese and she asks questions, her shirt riding up what if we could hold our breath forever what if Fox doesn’t bury the clothes what if we went to 36th our knees kissing brick visit the grave again and I remember what this is: her mouth ripped into a horrible grin, blood dripping down my face, skinned rabbits and all. Fox and Cherry Girl and Angie and Olive and Olive and Olive and I. In the car, her face close to the window, looking straight ahead into the lights.
Sierra as a broken tooth in the bathroom, peeling off tangerine rinds from her thighs, waiting for something to bloom. Sierra, as salt down my back in glimmering light, as a dream I once had, as the dream I never had. Sierra as bloody diamonds, bloody gold, as her mouth pockmarked and full, waiting, easy, slowly, kiss me, fuck. Sierra as the person I didn’t let exist inside me, as the broken horse, the watery eyes, the twisted leg, and I didn’t want to shoot her. In the backyard, no barn, no midwest, no dreary Ohio dreams, me and you, Sierra, letting the mosquitoes ricochet across our palms, and I had a gun in my hands and you’re going to let me shoot you, you’re not going to cry. Belly kisses and you broke the windows with your bare hands. Belly kisses and sometimes, I blink and you’re shimmering, sometimes I blink and the light devours you. Sometimes it’s hard to pretend that you didn’t bleed, Sierra.
Ma shot Ell in the chest this morning. He got a toothache right after, pulled rosary beads out of his throat. I told him to sing like a raven and he spit up pond water. I told him to bleach the mark above his rib and he laughed, kissed those paintings in the main hall instead. Remember when you made them? A boy shaped like a fire extinguisher, a girl shaped like a bruise. Both with eyes like rubbing alcohol. I broke Ma’s glasses, threw them in the lake out back. She said she meant to hit Ell’s thigh, to get the rabbit bone out. I gave Ell the wrench. He wears enamel on his neck now.
Daughters are bright eyes, bright wounds, dark red on her knees, no tears, none at all. Denver, concrete grey and bubblegum sky and a lift in your voice. White topped and green bellied. our lungs wider than ever, lakes as a teaspoon into the ground. Daughters as sugar cubes, as cut glass, no tears, none at all. Sierra is lazier than this, belly kisses and diamonds and hungry palms. When we look hard, she disappears in the light.
I’ve got some poems published in the newest issue of PANK- check it out here!
After Julia Faulkner who wrote a poem after Matthew Olzmann
A beginning of wolves chasing, nipping at our calves,
licking the blood from our ankles. Your sweaty hand in mine,
waiting for the doors to swing open in a French kitchen
like a movie scene, and the waiters to topple their platters
and spill red wine onto a heiress’ dress. A beginning
of stone bridges, of green-bellied crickets. We steal tubs
of ice cream and shaved chocolate,pull splinters from our palms
for weeks. Bears and squirrels and crows in the backyard,
pecking at the rows and rows of corn. Hiding in the wheat,
waiting for god like a dinner date, praying that dusk won’t find us
this deep in the mid-west. Later, it is Seattle or San Diego,
something slippery and wet on our tongues, ice cubes
made of Kool Aid or sugar water, mosquitoes forever
swarming my neck and your wrists, and we push down the seats
in the car and pull smooth marbles from our mouths
and say things like Cuisses de Grenouille and Blanquette de Veau,
imagining these things, dancing frog legs and blankets of
veal, creamy white sauce ribboned over like silk. A beginning
of toothpicks, of a thousand cut mouths, of silence canyon deep,
clouds of gold dust, burnt skin pink as lemonade.
I could never tell if you were smiling
or baring your teeth.
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