2012/06/19 § Leave a Comment
On the themes of Amelia Earhart, slut, cigarettes and the last word
After the crash, sea turtles ask god the big questions. I toss them day-old katydids, stale slices of moths’ wings, my dented zipper pull.
Always indecent, the river lowers her hem another inch, invites married men to slap her banks.
Her fish flash their scales for the fan dance,
but anyone can tell they’re on their last grasp.
Are those searchers or leapers lined up on the bridge? Distance over water refracts the angles,
makes the river lick the sky. If she tastes
like lace, I’m climbing up there to kick her ass.
There are no rocks in the air pockets;
this is not one of those times. Death does not become anyone, least of all me. I’ve sewn my lungs shut in case the sky gets wild,
and tosses her hair. Clouds stick to the soul
but don’t leave the patterns you expect.
I’ve heard there are women who behave,
walk backwards, never show their knees to strangers.
My legs are criss-crossed with tying down. Silver
at throat and hand at hem. A compass always points north, but sand dollars hide five bone-bleached doves. When I break them open, their beaks will carve me wings.
It Wasn’t a Red Riding Hood
It was a crimson corset, leather and laced tight.
But don’t tell mom that—hard enough to talk her out of pink.
Dads, on the other hand, always know which way their daughters lie. Don’t hurt each other, he said. But he gave me the axe anyway.
The rope I found in Grandma’s closet—she always did
have a dark streak tucked beneath her bonnet. Listen, she told me once, there is nothing about prey that you don’t already know
in that mossed space between your thighs.
Again and again, I find him in the woods, that clearing where paths wind figure eights around fragile trunks.
When he turns his lips inside out, bone needles pin
me to the pines, scratch the skin from the blades of my back.
Beyond the hedge, the washerwomen spread stained
clothes in the current, hearing nothing by their own dirty song. A single shirt, tattered and torn, breaks free,
runs red as a tongue to lap wild at the river’s bend.
Look, I say to him. I unweave the skin laced
through my breast bone, wrap it taut around his throat. You’re a dog. You’ve always been a dog.
Tomorrow, he’ll growl and sniff at the damp slit of my skirt.
I’ll clench his leash in my mouth and beg to be dragged through thorns.
On Quitting: Notes
Cigarettes mourn the loss of your mouth.
There is nothing to filter me from these dangerous substances.
My nails curve black with the skin of your ash.
I have forgotten how to suck.
That cherry glow is only a prettier will-o-wisp. Astray isn’t even the word. Gifts of antique ashtrays in the shape of donkey’s asses.
Endings are hard.
Sometimes endings aren’t endings at all.
Just burning too close to the fingers. You forgot to let go.
Ancient Chinese Secret
Used to be how to get clothes clean, no, white. How to remove the stains of your life with a smile and a closing
of the big square door. Sunday mornings tasted like cartoon explosions and cereal-coated decoder rings,
smelled like the hiss of the hot iron
on a vodka-sprayed hem. Somewhere
in TV Land, a woman smiled for a camera.
Who knew a woman could smile like that, white boxes of her teeth lined up like machines. Chew, chew, chew, rinse, spit. Repeat.
Now Sundays sound like a cycle of despair
and fragrance-free soap. Everything’s washed in
cold and rinsed in lukewarm. Even Monday’s panties.
The secret is the coverings don’t matter. This shirt, these pants, that sock,
you can’t read the language of their seams.
The secret is written on my body.
It’s not ancient. It’s not even that secret. Come closer. Spin the dial. Pull the wet truths from my gaping mouth.
Shanna Germain is a writer and editor. Her work appears in Absinthe Literary Review, Best American Erotica, Pank, Salon and Storyglossia. www.shannagermain.com