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Vol. 1, Number 4
Thomas Cobb Editor
Robert Lunday Assistant Editor
Kathleen Cambor Fiction Editor
Martin McGovern Poetry Editor
Marianne Pomeroy Design
Phillip Lopate Faculty Adviser
Acknowledgement: Selections from Hard Labor by Cesare Pavese, translated
by William Arrowsmith, by permission of John Hopkins University
Domestic Crude is printed and published annually at the University of
Houston. We wish to acknowledge gratefully that funding for this issue
was provided by the University of Houston, Office of the Chancellor and
Provost through the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
il,)Copyright 1985 University of Houston. Upon publication, all rights
revert to contributors.
Table of Contents
Poetry and Prose Art
4 Jeffrey Greene From San Francisco 21 Lynn Foster
5 Elizabeth Ashton Running 22 Jackie Harris
7 James Ulmer Trespassing 23 Carter Ernst
8 Ginger Bingham Scranton Miracles 24 Sharon Kopriva
8 Kathryn J. Burt Frog-Snake 26 Lynn Foster
9 James Ulmer Sunlight, Memory, Word 27 Jeff Marshall
9 Nancy Eimers Science Fair 28 Wendy Puntenney
10 Kevin Cunningham The Assemblagist
12 Nancy Eimers Winter Solstice
13 Glenn Blake The Hankamer, Texas Rice and
Grain Elevator Night Guard
Application Form, Question Four
14 Michelle Boisseau Beneath Santa Maria della
15 Randel Ann Mott Buying Cigarettes in Ecuador
15 Tomas Transtromer Satellite Eyes
15 George Manner Genealogy
16 Roberta Kozak There and Here
17 Ntozake Shange Highlights of Twanda Rochelle
Johnson's Wedding, Houston,
19 Francis Mayes To Merida
30 Francis Mayes Net
31 Virginia Carmichael Wynning in the "General Prologue"
32 William Virgil Davis Five Poems
36 Natalia Ginzburg Portrait of a Friend
(trans. Lynne Sharon
38 Lynne Sharon Schwartz A Correspondence
and Phillip Lopate
40 Gary Myers The Blue Soldier
41 Lionel Garcia Some People are Just That Way
42 Joyce James A Pattern in Pieces
43 Gary Myers St. Mary's Bay
44 William Matthews Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Spring
45 Patricia Kimbrell The Salvation Army
47 William Olsen Nostalgique Du Mal
47 Katherine Coles In Lavender
From San Francisco
The last time the world
seemed to hit something
or someone upstairs in the blue
slammed a door left ajar,
some of us were paying attention,
some of us weren't,
and we went around asking
who felt what or saw
the glass move toward them
or wondered if the quake
would stop or start up again.
I imagine how years from now,
praying that it will be years,
maybe beside some statuary
in a garden we will feel
a little nudge of our lives ending
and whisper to each other,
"Did you feel anything?"
In this city the weather's redundant,
each day perfect for months.
And the moon at night gazes
on the nasturtiums and Japanese tile.
One night it gazed on me
when I couldn't sleep
with a cracked tooth.
Early that morning
we drove through the city
looking for painkillers
while the wind blew
and numberless traffic signals
changed for no one
against the powdered sky.
The other night at dinner
the talk was about death ritualsthe
need to see the dead in person
so that they don't come back
living in our dreams.
I remembered how the Anglo-Saxons
sometimes buried the head
apart from the body
to keep the dead from wandering back whole
and shaking the thatch.
In the Gazette of Old English Burial Sites,
they list one skull full of nuts
collected there by a squirrel
the way some of us keep track
of our worst years.
My stepfather, who I never saw buried,
had his small service in springtime
in Southington, Connecticut.
My mother called and we talked a while
when the world seemed to hit something
and no one else felt it.
There she goes, with no breasts and no
sex. The lack of one does not preclude the
other, and I fight the notion that either of
them could be weighed and packaged as
items of consumption, of gossip. She has
or she has no breasts. They have or they
have no sex. "They have sex'.' Frequently.
Infrequently? Three times a day before meals
with plenty of fluids? Taken at bedtime?
Once by mouth weekly, as needed? As
directed. Tepid? Raw? Never? (How do
you have it. I thought you did it. At the best
of times shared it.)
But there she goes. No breasts. That's a
medical fact. No sex. That is, no lovemaking.
Her husband is driving the car, his arms
supported by steel braces. He has no
muscles, you see. And it's true, I am assuming
much. I am assuming that she has no
sex. She hasn't told me that. But I do know
that she cares for her husband, cares for
him as a nurse cares for a patient, that kind
of cares. She also, cares for him. They've
been married a long time. I don't know
how long. But they've lived on my street
for twenty years, and they came here with
two boys in junior high school, so they
may have even been married forty years
for all I know. At least thirty five. He was
in World War II.
I saw her after her last operation, when
she was finally symmetrical. She went
around with one breast for possibly five
years. Anyway, the day I saw her she had
on a striped T-shirt, and she hadn' t put in
her prosthesis, or -theses, I guess. There
was something rather charming about her
flat little chest (She hadn't been a victim of
the "radical'.' They'd left her with muscles.),
something rather charming about this fiftyeight-
year-old woman with a woman's
shoulders and a little girl's chest. Erotic
even. I hadn't seen the scars. I chose to
imagine a smooth, even expanse. Had
they worked the nipples in? Or had they
bothered? Or had she cared? Maybe she
hadn't cared in the first place. Maybe she
hadn't cared whether she had sex or not. I
don't know my neighbor too well. We talk
in the street sometimes about the house
up for sale on the corner, the cold weather,
what's going on with that lot across the
bayou where the trees are being leveled,
and some things my husband told her the
last time he talked with her in the street,
before he died. He had a sympathetic ear
She said to me the last time I talked with
her, "If you ever need anything, just let
me know'.' And I said to her, "You know
I'm here. All you've got to do is call me'.'
We both meant it. We knew each other
meant it. We don't drink coffee together.
But then I don't drink coffee with anyone.
I don't visit around the neighborhood during
the day. Never have. And that has
nothing to do with it.
I find myself standing at my kitchen
window (It loo~s out on the street.), watching
with curiosity as they drive by. Do
they have sex? And if they don' t, how do
they manage? And if they do, how do they
manage? How do they do it, do it, do it?
How do they have it, have it, have it? Do
they grapple flesh to flesh, or is her chest
tender and can't stand grappling? But then,
he can't grapple anyhow. Those pesky
braces. Do they lie side by side and just
touch? I saw her in the grocery store and
tried to read her eyes. Was she wanting
release from this caring? I do know that
she told my husband, the last time they
talked in the street, that she has to do
"everything for Dave;' that this atrophying
of his body could take years ... thanks
to the advances of medical s,i:ience. She
didn't look bitter. She didn't look like she
missed her breasts. But I don't know.
The woman in the next block lost her
husband. That is, he died, six months
after mine. They're dropping around here.
Something to do with the age. She woke up
three days before Christmas and found
she'd been sleeping with a dead man. I
imagine the tree was trimmed, presents
mostly wrapped, and maybe a turkey
defrosting in the refrigerator. Perhaps the
fishing rod he'd always wanted was in the
closet. I'd only known him to wave to and
say, "Hi;' as I passed him on the street.
Maybe he didn't fish.
A year after his death, just before Christmas,
I saw her at the check-out counter in
our drug store. We compared notes. She
was wearing a plum velvet jogging outfit
and false eyelashes, though she doesn't
jog, in fact is quite plump. But the velvet
was a wonderful brave flag of color in the
store, and I liked the lashes on her plain,
"Looks like you've got your lights up
and everything;' I said.
"Well, we've been having trouble with
the lights. There's a short somewhere. But
Don's working on it'.' (Don's her son.)
"Do you find that the loneliness gets
worse?" I asked her.
"I don't have time;' she said. "The house
is always full of kids'.' (They' re grown kids.
She'd been married and lived with that
man almost as long as I had with mine. At
least 30 years.)
But do you miss it, 111iss it, miss it? I said.
She didn't hear me, nor was she intended
"Have a good Christmas;' I said.
Other deaths have been recorded on my
street. John, the husband of my best friend
Joanne, died two years before mine. He
wasn't sick quite as long, but they'd been
married longer. The heart took the man in
the next block. With my husband it was
kidneys, and heart. With John it was a
short year with a mushrooming liver. Muscles
will take longer.
When John was home for the last time,
Joanne and I were sitting outside on her
lawn swing one day. I could here him
screaming for her in the house. She said
that he wouldn't let her get out of his
sight. She told me that he'd said that he
wished she were the one that was sick, not
he. That she were dying. Though he didn't
They called me down to the hospital
when John finally had to go in again. He
hadn't made a will, and they wanted me to
witness. They had him propped up in the
bed. He was pop-eyed and staring wildly
across the room. "Hi John;' I said. We
gathered at the end of the room- the
preacher, the lawyer, two other friends, a
sister, the sister's husband, Joanne and
me-and talked about John as if he weren' t
there. Then we were ready, and we all
converged around his bed. He looked at
no one. I wanted to get out of there.
"John. John;' they said, loud and slowly.
"We want you to sign your will now. It's
what you want'.' Everyone nodded at one
another. They put the pen in his hand . He
dropped it, or rather he hadn't even grasped
it in the first place.
"John. John'.' Somebody leaned over into
his face. "You must do this, then you can
rest. Be a good boy now'.' John wasn't.
John's eyes rolled back, his head twisted
on his shoulders, his fingers clenched and
unclenched. Somebody picked up the pen
and put it in John's hand again and held it
there, fingers tightly squeezed around
John's. Slowly-and, I don't know who
did this, I was only staring at the handsslowly
and laboriously the hand moved
his hand, holding the pen, over the page
and wrote . . . "John'.'
I tried to visit him a couple of days later.
My husband was having one of his particularly
bad days (It took five years to kill
him-my husband.) and either couldn't or
wouldn't go, so I went alone. I intended to
walk into John's room, say, "Hi;' and sit
and hold his hand and talk to him. But
when I saw those staring, terrified eyes
again, I couldn't do it. All I could do was
stand at the side of his bed and say, "John,
I just want you to know that we love you'.'
Then I left.
When my husband died, in a different
bed, in a different hospital, his eyes were
also staring. But they were different. He
couldn't talk. His throat was jammed with
tubes, his body with drugs and needles.
He couldn't move. He couldn't have closed
his eyes, even if he had wanted to. The
muscle relaxers were very efficient. But
his eyes were trying so desperately to focus
on something. He frowned slightly. "Do
you hurt?" I said. He barely moved his
head. A whisper of movement. No. And
still he stared, frowning, focusing up into
the blinding globe light suspended over
his bed. I wanted to say, "What do you
see?" But I didn't. He couldn't have answered
He lived a few days after that. By then,
the eyes, though still staring, were blank,
yellow, and striated red. No revelations.
The brain wave flattening. I wanted to
run, screaming through the halls of the
hospital, wrap my body in black clothes
and tear at my hair. But the doctors would
have only caught me and jammed me full
of needles and said, "You need a rest'.'
So, I sat with him and held his hand. I
would have have sat with him regardless.
I wouldn't have cut and run, even if the
eyes had been wild and shattered. I held
on to that spark of life, no matter how
unrecognizable, bloated and icy. Because
he was mine. I'd known him. As best I
could. I'd known the familiar feel of the
rough, jutted bone at the base of his spine,
a genetic malformation. The slick scar on
his shin, from a childhood accident where
hair never grew. The weight of his body.
His laugh. And God, he could be an authoritative
bastard done up in pin stripes and
subdued tie-which I had selected-headed
for town. "What do I care about that shit?"
I'd yell out the back door. He wouldn't
answer. He'd pull his mouth tight and gun
the motor. And, I admit to chasing the car
a couple of times and throwing whatever
was handy. I smacked his back window
with a raw egg one time, but I caught him
laughing as he turned the corner. He'd
come home in the evening, and as he passed
me at the kitchen sink, kiss me on the
forehead and say, "Why do I love you so
much?" And I'd say, "Damned if I know'.'
A friend of one of my daughters remembers
those sink kisses with wonder. She'd
seen nothing like it at her house. How
lucky I was. I'd known the feel of his hands.
His smell. His taste. Sleeping thigh to thigh,
belly to back.
I wanted to lie down beside him and
warm his icy body. He'd gotten in bed
once with me when I was in the hospital
and had just held me. I hurt so bad. The
black nurse had come in and found us and
laughed. She hadn't made him leave. He
was such a bullshitter. He'd laid it on, and
she loved it. But Christ. All I could do was
sit in the forest of I. V.' s and electronic
screens cooking red and green, cold chrome
and sleek smells, hold his hand and say,
"Hey Chief, are you still with me? Come
on. Gimme a squeeze'.' And as the bare
tremor moved through his finger- what a
lot of work that must have been-say,
"That's my boy. Come on. Give it to me'.'
And then there was nothing. All systems
Last week I went home with a young
man who runs in the park where I run. I
went home with him, because I hadn't
touched a male body in two years, except
for my son who hugs me, my sons-in-law
who hug me, and indiscriminate male
friends who hug me, but not grappling
flesh to flesh. I went home with him because
he lived alone, and because we had been
looking at each other for a year as we passed,
running, and he liked the way I looked,
and I liked the way he looked. And because
I wanted to touch a male body, flesh to
flesh. He said he'd been divorced a yearand-
a-half before. And whether he'd had
a woman since then, I don't know. Had as
in had sex, I guess. Had a woman, part by
We sat on his couch and listened to unintelligible
poetry on his tape deck and talked
inconsequentials. We propped our feet on
an ottoman in front of the couch and it was
cozy. I looked at his long strong legswe
both had on jeans-at his gym socks
and topsiders. I pretended to enjoy the
poetry, but I couldn't hear it, a mush of
fervid words. I was missing the significant
moments, but I didn't want to be rude so I
gave him the A. 0. K. sign, finger to thumb.
"Whatta you think of that part?" he said.
"That's really something'.'
I shook my head and looked at my legs
lying next to his, measured the distance
between our feet. To the susurrus of the
poetry I entertained him with a thousandand-
one stories as I watched with interest
a hand groping slowly across the gulf that
separated us, watched as he got up and
down adjusting lights, and moving ever
closer to me with each return to the couch.
Still I entertained, and the hand moved
closer. I began to think it was absurd. As
the hand finally reached my thigh and
began its laborious climb up the side, I
reached out and took hold of it. The effect
was startling. He threw himself on me in
desperation. That's the only word for it.
Desperation. Nothing was said. It was
soundless, and I went with it. I took the
cue. I was ready for anything. Dirty words,
if that's what he wanted, at least some
class B dialogue: "I've been wanting to
fuck you ever since I saw you;' or "I haven't
had my hands on a woman since my wife
left'.' I would have accepted "cunt;' a word
I loathe. But instead it was soundless, wordless
grappling. I reserved a part of myself
to stand aside and watch these two people
with curiosity, going at each other on the
couch. And then he stopped, and oh so
gently, given the previous frenzied grappling,
picked me up and carried me through
his house towards the garage. I said, "The
garage?" Ready even for that. Whatever
that was. He laughed. The garage was the
bedroom, or rather the bedroom had been
the garage. He yanked off my clothes, and
his, jeans, shirts, bra, socks, pants, everything
went flying. It was amazing. Five
For two hours we sweated and stormed
each other's bodies like deaf mutes. And
though he endlessly kissed my eyes and
my breasts and stroked my hair back again
and again from my forehead and twined
his fingers through mine, and though I
pressed my body into his and wanted him,
wanted him, wanted him, he kept his eyes
closed, and the rhythm didn't catch.
I fell asleep beside him, the curve of my
hip against his back. I woke up at four in
the morning and wondered why I was
there. I went into the strange bathroom,
austere and cold. The tub needed to be
scrubbed and the raised seat of the commode
was stained with yellow. On the
counter were dental floss and a toothbrush
and paste, a razor. I used the floss, wiped
my body with one of the wadded towels
hanging on the rack, and dressed. Then, I
couldn't figure out how the front door lock
worked. Besides, I didn't want to leave
without saying something. I went back
into the bedroom and climbed on top of
him and laid my cheek to his.
"I'm sorry to wake you up'.'
"Unh? Sneaking out in the middle of the
night are you?"
"Yes. Except I can't figure out how the
front door lock works'.'
As he told me how to work the lock, he
put his arms around me and slowly rubbed
my back. And that was very nice.
From the shadows I called to your window.
It brightened, threw its shape on the grass,
darkened. Without a word
you appeared near the corner of the house,
hushed me and took my hand,
careful not to wake your father.
We slipped across shadows of hedges
and the blue, moonlit lawns
in a charmed circle, crickets silent
around us, dodged a sweep
of headlights and made our way to the lake,
to the fence overgrown with honeysuckle.
We waited, out of breath and almost
safe, holding back our laughter.
You twisted the vines and thin throats of those flowers
into chains for your ankles, your wrists.
Fifteen years. Have you cut your black hair?
Often in sleep I'm immersed
again, see you floating before me,
the flare of your body extinguished in water,
green eyes as you turn.
On that last night of summer
I boosted you over the fence,
heard you fall to the grass and run.
I climbed after you, pausing at the top
to watch as you neared the lake's black light,
saw your clothes falling from you like shadows,
and I dropped to the ground and followed.
Oh, Rose, why did we doubt you
when you said you saw the Virgin
between two bolts of cloth
at Taylor's Dry Goods?
Now the holy signs fly thick
and fast: print of a huge wing
in dust at Legion Hall Twelve,
the tongue of fire that followed
Pinky Salazar down Snyder Avenue.
The statue of St. Francis we ordered
special last year from Harrisburg
is nodding in answer to Father Drynen.
They have sent us a Jesuit to help
Father keep careful track
of all the questions and answers.
Then there are the lights, sounds
of bells, voices out of the air.
Few yards are undamaged by cables
and vans used for live interviews.
Channel Four reruns Song of Bernadette
as a public service. No comfort.
She's special, and we become
more common every day.
Together we are waiting for letters
and depositions to reach Rome.
If we get the shrine, we've got it made.
Hershey will have nothing on us.
That's the thing to do, plan ahead
for the summers full of tourists.
But Rose, who among us asked to know
a little and then got greedy?
Who brought us this windfall
the learned call "democracy of grace,"
which is too much like paradise
to be paradise at all.
Kathryn J. Burt
Webbed and pale,
its legs stuck out from the unhinged jaw
beneath the heavy pine bough I'd wormed under,
my brother's bad throw stunning them still
as the hooped muscles funneled them, and the frog attached,
back to the coiled tip my finger straightened
could have touched, that skin one I'd known before,
only bone-snagged, pinned to a post until the nail splits
loosed it to the bushhog's whirr and spit.
My brother wanted to pull them free,
him the snake-end, me the other
as if I'd flung off the one before, the one
my father' d fished out from the pond with a fishnet
and dubbed as it dangled gold-eyed past my knee,
then that thin and tendoned skin unmarred
by any kicked ground's pebbled dirt or sunned shore's
long suck, the pond's scum where I held it
stringing us still.
I remember later,
darker, the pond moon-ringed,
it calling and me going down careful past the light-bleached
yard to where tipped willows crowded the washed edges,
their pale roots draining the leaves gold, then dark
the rushes bending and the soft swampy shallows
still giving up their sudden, sparked breath.
I lift the lid of my grandfather's trunk
and a gaze rises from the clutter
like a face seen at the bottom of a well.
The woman is twenty, dressed in black muslin
with a bow at her breast, a starched lace collar.
I recognize the broad mouth and dark eyes,
though I've never seen her face so young
or tanned from haymaking, a chore she loved
for the scythe's arc and the scent of cut grain,
the good ache in her arms at night.
In another picture she stands in her garden,
forty years later, among the wide leaves
of wax beans, tomato plants higher than her waist
cucumber vines woven on their trellis,
the pumpkins and squash growing round.
Early fall. The weighted heads of sunflowers
seem barely able to follow the light, straining,
as if to hear some word their lives depend upon.
She holds a ripe tomato in her palm,
and a cardinal tries to balance, its wings spread,
on the clothesline above her. The last time
I saw her the skin was stretched tight over bone,
the pale color of the shells she'd scatter
in her garden, wave-polished, translucent, as if
a light were shining from within.
The Science Fair
Beach balls, kick balls,
the small planets of children
are spinning too aimlessly ever to come down
except by accident. They make us huge,
you and I taking the room up with our talk
about childhood, leaving the real
moon for a part of the night we had wanted
to look at more closely. How small our first friends stay
in their imagined spaces, waist-high
beside us and moving so lightly
among the clunky desks they seem weightless,
touching the floor by choice.
In a serpentine line of children
I moved without moving across the playground,
my hands on the wrists of the friends
on either side, an irresistible ripple dividing
itself from the rest of the world.
We wound back and fourth to the pull
of our own centrifugal force
as if we knew we were secretly
photographed, arms arranged around each other
always to keep from falling
away from the line, the same way
Saturn's tipped rings now seem about to float
together, to flood the tiny sky.
He stumbled through the accumulated
junk from years of scavenging. A large
automated medical lamp (whose cylindrical
head opened like a pod at the press of a
button to reveal glowing rows of ultraviolet
tube lamps) bit him on the shin with its
chain drive. His red tennis shoes, covered
with blotches of paint, clanked through
the red-brown darkness of the warehouse.
He bore three boxes brimming with jagged
objects unknowable in the light, some
matte, some glinting with the high polish
of metals or the translucency or transparency
of plastics. Colors were impossible to
He was tall and thin, and his legs had a
loping and fluid stride. He drew on his
cigarette clamped between his teeth, his
breathing heavy but regular from the exertion
of carrying the boxes. The glow as he
drew in the smoke lit his mouth and the
tip of his nose green and orange, and the
light from behind shone through the cotton
of his shirt, yellow going to pink.
The odor of Gudang Gadam had always
clung to him: a sharp odor of tobacco and
cloves that nibbles sweet on the tongue.
He insisted that the cloves were more addictive
than nicotine, and somehow an association
with opium and the organic psychedelics
was attached to these cigarettes by
him and his friends who smoked them,
In a way he was a gangling anachronism,
smelling of marijuana, cloves and the faint
odor of beer pushing lightly from him with
his breath and the wind that passed as his
slender body brushed by on a long but
intensely quick stride.
He pushed aside a wooden box full of
wire loops as he entered the area, defined
as territory by a desk and work benches,
crude but stout, squatting almost a foot
below his waist like rectilinear, splintered
dwarves. Bending down he released the
boxes with a "Fuck!" as one (the small,
long one) fell. He sat on his haunches
Vietnamese-style, arms roping out to pick
up every tiny piece and placed them carefully
back in the box. Adjusting his drawing
pad clenched between his arm and his
side, he sat the small box on the desk
pausing to arrange the other two larger
ones with his foot. Opening the tablet, he
pulled out a small piece of paper about
four by five inches and placed it carefully
on top of the contents of the box. Then he
He walked quickly to the breaker box.
Throwing the switches, he trudged through
the blue gray, dusty air of the warehouse
past the medical light, crunching along on
top of the scraps of steel (seemingly the
only thing in the large room which was
not blue or gray), past wooden slat boxes
(gray) full of wire (covered with gray dust)
to his desk (also gray).
There was a box on his desk, a smile
took his face and he shook his head and
He rose and peered into the box and
walked across the room ducking under
the chain hanging from the lift to the
refrigerator and got a beer. Then he returned
to his desk assuming the same slouch, legs
outstretched. He grinned as he took a gulp
from the bottle. Then he sat up and began
removing the objects from the box and
arranged them on his desk top. He settled
back and just looked at them.
Now there were five beer bottles accompanying
the irregular, colorful silhouette
of what seemed to be organized trash on
the desk. A light film of sweat had risen
on his forehead, fighting the dark cast
around his eyes from dominance of light
absorption in his face. His slouch was more
pronounced and his stare more intense. He
almost seemed to glare at the group of
useless cripples sitting just below eye level
in front of him. He reached across the top
of the painted piece of log sitting on end
and grabbed a pencil, opened the drawer
to his right, pulled out a spiral notebook,
opened it and began to write.
looked at the box with affection. Lifting ~
the paper from the top, he looked at it, but if# lJj l his eyes did not move across its surface in
lines; instead they moved in a jiggling cir-cular
pattern and his face rose up to become 1Jfil
a laugh. fl
Carefully setting the paper aside he sat,
and slouching back, stared at the box. It
was a cardboard box. The top had been
ripped off leaving a pointed corrugated
piece of paper sticking up like a skeezix.
The bottom corner facing him on his right
was undermined and the box sat off kilter,
leaning its weight on the weakest point.
A crinkle was thus formed, and the box
looked at him with a knowing smirk.
A drawing of thirteen naked, primitive
people (children, adolescents and elders)
either compulsively into anal or rear entry
sexual flirtation and indulgence or weighted
down from their noses by heavy, false teeth
on wires for the crime of wearing bird
beaks on their foreheads. Apparently the
former is the case with at least some and
has been taken to extremes. Further, if
these are x-rays, sexual tastes in the culture
have reached a high state of refinement
and pain and pleasure have little
meaning as relative terms. Then again,
maybe the drawing is a depiction of single,
multiple and impending breech births
accompanied by religious ritual. Stranger
things have happened.
One taped, gashed stump with scratched,
rendered knee cap, stapled, swirled and
flattened in back, sitting akilter like the
leaning tower. Perhaps suggesting Houston's
yearly subsidence and the effect it
has on the balance problems of amputees.
It is a wooden and smeared with cobalt
One filthy and stressed piece of plexiglass
with burned nipple. It has amiable stress
crackes-wrinkles as if it had been smiling
or grimacing for 85 years. It can be no
more than three. What does this say about
organicity? What does it say about synthesis?
Why does it have only two holes?
Can it speak? Is it too an amputee?
A three-legged composition board stand
for an unidentified appliance (conspicuously
an amputee) affixed to which is the
WARNING: To Prevent Shock or Fire
Hazards DO NOT Expose This Appliance
to Rain or Moisture. Very inhuman not to
say antagonistic to sexuality. Even though
it is wooden and rubber, I resolve not to
expose it to rain or moisture out of respect
for AUTHORITY and further not to use it
while camping in the rain or as a sex toy in
One paint by number clown by "ME'.' Numbers
1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 10 unpainted. The only
one of the seven colors which are painted
through which I can read the number, is
number 9 which is aqua. It is the color of
the clown's smiling irises. I shudder to
think how this will effect color theory when
I disclose the information. If I wait to disclose
it at the right time in my career it
could shake the very foundations of modern
aesthetics, but of course it will have
the most profound effect on the worlds of
advertising, clothing and textile design and,
to a lesser degree, interior design. I will
Two blue jean legs cut off at the knee.
Where is the other stump?
One Folger's coffe can containing:
a. an empty ink bottle, not to be seen as
a symbol for the current psychological
state of most single adults living in urban
areas or for the content of contemporary
b. a bottle neck (having nothing to do
with traffic or bureaucratic strategy) with
beige paint (or the bottle neck's aesthetic
or decorative skills).
c. seven rubber bands, though seven is
considered to be a mystical number these
objects should not be seen as an indication
of some god-like, supernatural or
d. one piece of string, no linkage or bondage
e. three bicycle brake pads, badly used,
no relfexion on their capacity for restaint
f. a twisted piece of conduit, no reflexion
on its psychological status.
g. one broken clothes pin, 1:w reflexion
on its ability to hold onto what it has.
h. one disconnected transformer, no
reflexion on its ability to cope with change
or to network.
i. four disenfranchised caps for plastic
bottles, no reflexion on their capacity to
j. three Japanese-made hinges, not to
be associated with or put at fault for
k. one bent bearing wheel which is not
responsible for failure to keep the ball
1. ten scrabble tiles painted Prussian Blue
obscuring the letters of their native language
with its nonexistent nationality.
m. three assorted rings of different species
which are definitely not symbols,
parts of a nursery rhyme or adjuncts to
an ancient primarily rural ritual.
n. and not to be forgotten, one coffee
can for containment, which (despite the
scene on its side which glorifies industry)
is to be commended for so egalitarian
and charitable an attitude in housing
these misfits, and even more for keeping
them out of sight of the general public.
One small piece of paper with the words
"quality the tech" on it, though this directive
is admittedly obscure, again I leave it
to your interpretation.
One rubber hose which has never been
used to beat anybody.
One nail which has never been used to
Two screws which have never been used
to screw anybody.
A third piece of paper with linguistic symbols
. . . Okay, I'll attempt to put this piece
of paper with linguistic symbols on it in
context, but I will only do it through
addition; after all, I should remain true to
process (or so they tell me). My additions
will be bracketed. It reads, "PLANS A, B &
C ARE LOVE[RS] DETATCHED[.] [A]
GARAGE WITH COVERED [ACCESS WAS
THE POINT OF CONTENTION.] [EVEN
THOUGH] THE LIVING AREA HAS BEEN
EVENLY [DISTRIBUTED BEIWEEN TI-IEM]
PLANS TO ALLOW EQUAL SPACE ON
THE [VERANDA AND IN THE GARAGE
HAVE FAILED.]" Note: There are no thi:ee
car garages in Clear Lake City.
Snow takes everything
trivial from the pines, honing them
to the white edge of remoteness.
What my father shouts back
is layered by wind;
my boots cut down through powder,
a harder crust now shattering cleanly
into something like my footprint.
In bulky coats, we almost touch
this happiness made so lightly between us
it is lost or inaudible,
flutter of snow on fur.
We look at a signboard, missing the moment
a deer steps perfectly into its silhouette,
having always been there.
A wind tilts branches open and closed,
emptiness meshing its black and white.
For a time we are lifted into the trees
out of loneliness, one with the simple
curve of solitude we can't help
but live in. Sometimes deer wander
across the wide lawns in town,
browsing at the half-buried garbage.
I saw them once as I stood at a window,
half-asleep, not sure what I believed
was real: the deer still bending to fathomless
snow, the houses that couldn't be taken
for trees. When I looked again, they were gone
into sunrise, deer and houses overflowed
into the red around them, made
larger by it, no longer impenetrable.
There might as well be millions
out there beyond the duck blind
for all their racket. They stand around
on the ice. But when I stretch,
they skitter off into patches
of water and bob apart. What keeps me
watching almost to numbness is a sandhill crane.
It looms on one skinny leg, balancing,
cold, as if through absent-mindedness
it might pass, unnoticed, into winter.
Texas Rice and Grain Elevator
Application Form, Question Four
Question # 4:
What is your uppermost fear?
Please be completely open and honest with
your emotions. (If these lines do not suffice,
please feel free to use the back of the sheet.)
First of all, I think all of us have fears.
Don't you? But if I was to have to write
down what my uppermost fear was, I would
probably start by saying that the only thing
I'm really scared of is being alone, in a big
house, at night, when it's raining. When
the rain is pattering at my window pane
like it wants to come in, when the old
doors of the old house won't lock, and the
pictures on the walls look at me and follow
me with their eyes as I walk around the
house closing the curtains so nobody can
look in. When I'm afraid to look out the
windows to make sure no one's there for
fear of seeing someone's face pressed flat
against the pane, like a dead man's that
someone has just stabbed and is bleeding
on my front porch. When the lightning
strikes and the lights go out and my hands
are shaking so that I can't light a candle.
And I sit in the corner and hug my knees
for fear of walking down that long dark
hall past all them black open doors like big
old mouths waiting to grab me and gobble
me up. When the picture of the convict
from Great Expectations haunts my mind,
when the picture becomes a real man and I
light out of the front door for help and he
catches me and throttles me around the
neck with both hands and picks me up
offa the ground and it's raining and it's
dark and I'm all alone.
I think that's about it. Let's see, my uppermost
Roaches! I don't like roaches. If you grew
up around here, you know that they're
everywhere. On the wall, on the ceiling,
in the closets. Watching, with their antennas
just a twitching, waiting to crawl all
I make damn sure everytime I go to the
bathroom to check beneath the toilet seat.
I can just picture one of them basterds
sitting and waiting for me there and crawling
on me where I sure as hell couldn't
swat him off.
Do you ever sleep with you mouth open?
I do sometimes. Some nights I'll wake up
and my mouth is wide open as hell. Do
you ever worry bout one of them little
basterds crawlipg in there and laying eggs
way in the back of your throat and them
hatching one day? I think about that ever
now and then and try to sleep on my
I think the worst thing about roaches is
killing them. I just can't do it. You ever
squished one barefoot? There just ain't no
good way a killing a roach. What you end
up doing is hollering at it and flapping
your arms up and down and chasing it like
it was a calf until it runs under a bed or
I'll tell you, I damn near killed myself
once. I was taking a shower one night, and
the very instant I turned on the water, I
saw one big as a damn shoe-box on the
back wall, and the shower water came on
scalding hot, and I screamed, and he took
flight with a two-foot wing span and there
I was screaming, dodging this damn flying
roach, and trying to keep from getting boiled
I had a termatic experience once at my
Granpa's. Me and Lizzy and Mamma visited
Gran pa after church one Sunday. And
I was in my Sunday School clothes. Well,
Gran pa had just bought a new tractor and
he wanted me to drive it, but I couldn't
you see because of my good clothes. So we
went out to the shed and found a pair of
Daddy's old overalls that he wore when
he was a kid bout my size, and I put them
on and walked outside. And for maybe
half a second, I froze in my tracks, even
still on the tips of my toes, and I had this
funny feeling kinda like when I'd accidently
peed in my britches, and then I knew for
certain that them basterds were in there
with me. And for maybe a second, I looked
down with my eyes without looking down
with my head, you know, looking down
but not really wanting to see what was
down there and it looked like them overalls
was alive. And that's all it took for me
to start hollering and screaming and I could
feel all them little feet running all over me
and I screamed so loud that I thought my
eyeballs would pop out. And then I took
offa running, I didn't know where, I just
run, out to the road towards town. I figured
at least some of them might fall off if I
ran fast enough. Gran pa was trying to catch
me and tackle me and roll me all over the
ground and squish them dead. But when I
thought of that icky, oozy, snotty stuff
inside them basterds, I just screamed louder
and ran faster.
I'm just about out of room. If I have to be
honest with my emotions and tell what
I'm more scared of than anything, I'd have
to say snakes. I ain' t never told nobody
this before, but ever now and then I have
bad dreams about snakes. Not snakes on
the ground that you can chase around with
a hoe and chop into pieces, but snakes in
the water when you're in the water too.
My dreams all take place in the rice canals,
you know the wide ones that are always
full to the banks with the water flowing
Somehow, when my dreams start, I have
fallen into one of them canals and the water
starts to take me away, and when I start
trying to swim to shore to get out, the
snakes, the big black water mocassins come
in through the bushes and come into the
water like the alligators in them Tarzan
movies and all I can see is their heads and
behind them the water moving in S's. But
they don't bite me, they just swim in
between my legs to let me know they're
there. When I'm finally bout to reach the
bank, they start wrapping themselves
around my legs so that I can't kick any
more. And I'm clawing at the bank and
leaving finger holes in the mud and all I
can grab is weeds and the canal is carrying
me away and the snakes is pulling me
down. The canal water is muddy brown
like chocolate milk and the snakes look
like hundreds of wiggling licorice sticks.
And ever time, the horriblest part is right
before my head goes under the water, I see
a big snake head, big as a football, right in
front of me with green bloody eyes and a
Well, I guess that's about all I'm afraid
of. I'd sure like to have this job. As you
know, my Granpa worked for the Canal
Company till he died.
I hope I said enough fears. If I didn't, I
could probably tell you some more if I get
Along the ceilings, cornices of clavicle,
rosettes of vertebrae.
Across the walls, vaults of scapula
where tibia lie in clusters.
To defy Him who sent the plague again,
the Cappuccini monks dug chapels
then settled the bones inside.
The design of the church above is simple,
a mathematics fitting of pious men,
but the style beneath,
a callow baroque, a conspiracy
the traveller understands only later.
Even unburied bones grow
more of this world, browning
in our time, earthen vessels gone soft
under dust, dust blown smooth by the wind
when the caretaking monk opened the-door for me.
He wanted to show me the perfection
of bodies lost in each other:
they've lain so long in the anonymous mix
they can be only reluctant to separate
into their own bodies when He bids them
rise for his paradise.
Randel Ann Mott
In Quito I buy paper-wrapped Kings,
rubios with filters and without.
The senor who sells them talks about
condors and the span of vultures' wings.
I try to tell him I'd seen the birds
all week near mother's casa in Pajan
tapping their claws on her roof. On
Eduardo's path one day I heard
huge black wings rush over yucca.
Eduardo was dancing to disco
with his sisters, pretty ninas,
but for me they put on a cumbia.
I think of stirring air and of Eduardo Sate I 11·te Eyes
as I deal sucres for red tobacco.
The ground is rough, no mirror.
Only the grossest spirits
can mirror themselves there: the Moon
and the Ice Age.
Come closer in the dragon mist!
Heavy clouds, teeming streets.
A rustling rain of souls.
(translated from the Swedish
by Goran Malmqvist)
Again today I came upon the shell
of a cicada, vacant but still
clinging to a pecan tree's bark.
And not until now, hours later
(hours spent thinking of my father),
do I think in the closing dark
it's time I shrug, to shed
this too-complex and agitated
shell I've nestled in. The torque
of watching my son is enough.
Rainclouds ranging from the Gulf
make it easier to work:
under their upward-building darkness
I take my time, coolly undress,
my clothes nesting in the fork
of the pecan. The rest is waiting
for someone to come (mistaken homing
instinct) and rescue me, talk me back.
There and Here
We waited for this storm, the clouds deepening
all week and then rain, steady overhead.
You're quiet next to me, sleeping through it
the way you learned in Seattle, the rain there
soaking the ground over months, the trees so thick and needy
they demanded all the weather could offer.
You told me the Sound took the sky's light
like a mirror, gulls and their bright young
diving for the surface, trailing the ferry north to Canada.
On good days, you'd travel the coast until dusk
with the woman of that time, shopping the wharves
weighed down with fruit and fish,
pocketing small stones for their color.
Her eyes reflected the blue of early morning,
sunrise burning fog from the water.
What we shared with others comes back.
I remember how I'd bottle seawater
to bring home in August, every year, wanting the summer
nearby, the clear intensity of sunlight.
The lakes my family visited in the fall
faded, beautiful in their isolation. Cumberland Gap-our
boat by the dock, containment, the hovering, green metal
dragonflies. How wonderfully you sleep,
as if all women blend into a dream of a lake darkened
by sundown, sky moving toward amethyst, water
for you to drift over. In the flash
from the window, I lean over you, now,
and watch you holding her. This is the sleep
we give ourselves to--rain outside, there and here,
streetlamps blurred, the road alive with sound.
Highlights of Twanda
Rochelle Johnson's Wedding,
Houston, Texas, or
Spectacular Escape from AFDC
I married myself today in front of the
$6,000 opal next the $4,000 aquamarine
from Brazil where I seduced the taxi driver
for the sheer pleasure of such gloriously
full lips, licking my forehead at the red
lights, long black curls seeping through
my individually applied aqua-blue super
long lashes: dew in a tropical place. I was a
scented collection of crystal sweat from
my elbows to my chin. My legs sweating,
so. While my vulva trembled, dripping
woman all over the backseat. Sweet years
ago with the Cariocas.
Beverly wanted the man to drive us home.
I told her that was exactly what he was
doing. My mouth murmured, filled with
lip, tongue, moustache. Oh, moustache
massaging the corners of my lips, tickling
the crevice between my ears and hair falling
over the front seat. "For God's sake,
let the man drive us to the hotel; ' Beverly
screamed. I know she did, but the kisses
were synchronized to the yellow and red
lights from Corcuvado to Leme. There was
so much of Rio we hadn't seen. She should
lay back with some cachaca and sight-see
or huddle up, take a little nap. But, definitely
forget the notion that the kisses could
be stopped by dawn or high noon, unless
we fell asleep tongue to tongue somewhere
near the sail boats headed toward Itaparica.
I forget his name, but that's how you should
be kissed when the minister proclaims,
"you are now man and wife'.'
I'm going to get a veil to wear to the
jewelry store and carry my Sony Walkman
behind my bouquet, listening to Prince
croon, "you, you, I would die for you'.'
Then I'd slip the wedding ring over the
wrong finger: the independent second finger
right near the real wedding finger.
After all, this friend of mine told me if the
so-called "wrong" finger was manicured
and long, there was no mistaking what all
he could bring out of you, anywhere. That
wrong finger was a telling sign of incurable
delights, up and over labia, vulva,
clitoral sambas, etc.
I sang to my self a la Irene Cara and
Natalie Wood, "There's a place for us'.'
And asked the price of the Swiss digital
watch embraced by diamonds and sapphires:
$8,556 American dollars. Nicaraguan
currency was not negotiable. Cuban
pesos by the thousands, totally unacceptable.
So, I couldn't give myself that sparkling,
glinting tease of a timekeeper as an
engagement present. I had missed my
engagement party' cause I had impulsively
accepted my hand in marriage without so
much as calling my mother. I hadn' t even
visited my Dad to ask for my hand, nor
had I listened to what he expected from
me as my life-long partner: the man to take
Daddy's place in my life, choosing and
buying my silk dresses and lightly salted
sweet butter at the few Weingarten's left
in Texas. Nothing takes the place ofJamail's,
but my Dad couldn't know that. He's not
intimately familiar with Houstonian traditions
or fads. Why, his cowboy hat doesn't
even have feathers on it and his boots got
that thin, "eastern" leather that would
surely tear if you were bull-dogging or
We didn't have the conversation.
I continued the marital ceremony over
malacite and Australian opals that have
black and navy hints amidst azure, pale
green and coral rose swirls esconced in
gold where my Maid of Honor would have
held my fiance's ring for that sacred moment,
the exchanging of rings. Giving oneself
to another in the view of the Holy
Ghost, through the haunting chime of the
Sikh's gong, with the blessings of Ochun
and Shango, never far from the reach of
Elegua or Ogun and Krishna, the Breath of
Fire ridding my soul and flesh of the now
inconsequential past: pushing me toward
purity and passion and innocence. My mate,
familiar with my blazing uncontrollable
untouched bronze-rose longings, knowing-
never having carressed me-where I
might sigh, closes my eyes humbly, accepting
more palm right there, more thigh,
more thigh over here. Please, listen. To
marry oneself surrounded by semi-precious
stones and crystal is quite an experience.
If one's ballet dancer is somewhere in
Latin America, rehearsing blocking for
"Swan Lake" or "Fix Me, Jesus, Fix Me;' a
gift from Ailey to Pinochet in memory of
Allende to the repertory company at the
Teatro Municipal in Santiago/ out of Santiago/
in Bogata/ on to Caracas/ el Districto
Federal, where I might honeymoon at the
Maria-Isabel, drink margaritas in sight of
Our Lady of Guadalupe. Shall I make my
pilgrimage on my knees with the shrouded
Indias, approaching our Holy Mother? Shall
I execute triplets and pique turns to our
healer, our conduit to Christ, while the
dancer goes on to Guadalajara?
I am marrying myself under a new moon
in East Texas: care-taker; provider; disciplinarian,
the only alternative, still smelling
of Opium, magnolia incense. My rings
on the wrong finger in this, the last days of
the twentieth century. I shall have been a
wife for 14 years by the year 2000, breeding
poems, novels, a graceful clarity to my
people in the New World where all things
are possible. I don't know my campanero
yet, but when he finds me I' ll be certain to
look him directly in the eye to see courage,
see fearlessness and honor in the carriage
of his torso. Legs revealing deft continuous
preparation for an assault contra nuestra
dignidad y liberacion. Cultural aggression
skipping to Uxmal, Macchu Picchu, the
Pyramid of the Moon. My lover and I shall
seek out Curanderos and Padrinos to put
us in touch with mountain cloud river
soil. The wedding ceremony very simple,
wasn't mentioned in the Enquirer or the
New York Times Society Pages. The San Juan
Star ran a five line announcement. Jet
magazine edited our union out of "People
are Talking About;' to Ebony's fashion
section, since my dress was designed by
Beverly Parks of Miami who had studied
with Valentino. After all, they had to
acknowledge that my flower girl wore a
Norma Kamali mid-calf satin gown, while
I paraded around the $10,000 braclets and
earrings as if I were wearing them all under
a raw silk canopy studded with aging ivory
tusks, facing from opaque white toward
fawn, rippling spirals 'tween boar's teeth,
Chinese monkeys of silver and carnelian,
jade beads swinging from one la pis oval to
another, a loop of garnets in semi-circles
enclosing my bridal carriage, enveloped
with U21 machine guns and .357 magnums
at each corner. Bands of ammunition
lay across the palominos' backs, slowly
tracing the paths of Guillen and Neruda,
sidling up to Marquez and Galisch. At Casa
de las Americas, the entire wedding party
was treated to mohitos.
We moved on to the silver services: punch
bowls, champagne glasses. They do not
carry sterling silver machetes or gold Gilils.
But these things way be ordered, if I would
sign the wedding book near the Chippendale
parlor chair which is not for sale. I
really hadn't intended to have so grand a
ceremony that Jeune Afrique carried a twopage
feature in their August issue. MarieClaire
and Elle critiqued the designers of all
the bridesmaids' dresses. I hate symmetry.
Nothing in nature is symmetrical. So, how
could I marry myself surrounded by a slew
of bridesmaids in the same color with poie
de soie heels dyed somewhere near 42nd
Street and 9th Avenue. I couldn't bear it.
My gorgeous friends appeared as themselves
near the crystal wine glasses and
delicate liquer sets which could be monogrammed,
if I knew my husband's name,
which I did, of course, since it was me. But
I didn't want to upset the saleswoman
who didn't realize she was the only woman
in American with an 8-inch high bleached
honey-blonde beehive and a circle pin on
the left lapel of her mauve two-paneled
jacket. I just said my husband's name was
Johnson, so a "J" would do on the liqueur
glasses, but the water, champagne, wine,
and brandy glasses were to remain clear of
design or inscription of any kind. Who
knows? Some guerrellro from Guatemala
or Nambia might find me irresistible, put
the rings on the right wedding finger, but
have a last name that began with "X" like
Xiomara, or "V" like Valenzuela, or even
"M" like Malinke. Something told me my
marriage to myself would end gracefully,
but would certainly not be the last venture
to the guarded fears and hopes of another
whose very name drew tears on occasion,
whose acerbic temper cut sinews, breastplate,
clammy hands, trembling fingers,
only to elicit the aching pain of truth. One
cannot marry and lie. A lot of people will
testify to that. Tween husband and wife is
a ravine where spring water finds its way
to the creek, then to the river, where silt
and aluminum cans infect the coming
together of disparate currents leaving
swamps and signs reading, "this water
unfit for bathers'.' And who are bathers
but lovers chastened with sacred drops of
pungent perspiration and mild sweet white
water crests, racing to ankles, roaming toes,
irrigating the very soils where spirits seek
I've been here a long time. I am almost
joined to myself, in sickness and health,
for richer or poorer, till death do we part'.'
But I've got to get over to 1-10 to the gun
store. I did promise my fiance a gilt silver
antique zip-gun that was actually used
by the Blackstone Rangers. I have asked
for a black leather jacket, the kind the Savage
Skulls wear on the east side train: silver
studs on the sleeves and round the
waist. Very hard to come by. They are
passed down in families. And my family
left the Bronx as the War in Europe was
ending, before Hiroshima or the Bandung
Conference, before I was born. So I agreed
to settle for one of Ben Webster's mouth
pieces or a Jimi Hendrix diary.
The yellow bee-hive lady caught on that
I was not a regular customer. I might be a
single black mother, you know, a statistic.
But she was wrong. I simply got married,
swathed in cascades of nature's rugged
rocks refined by human hands to steal the
sunlight, shake the moon from her sleep,
and let the world know I am well taken
care of. Diamonds, emeralds, silencers,
rapid fire machine guns, poetry, Dom
Perignon, camouflage suits, gold lame high
top sneakers, mindful we must be twice
what we believe we are, two times more
than expected. I'm so literal I had to get
married to get two of me.
But we're joined: a union of two minds,
two spirits/ two believers in la revolucion/
not even a free trip on the Concorde could
pull us apart.
I heard a Nicaraguan, only 18 years old,
and in the militia, jokingly reply to a possible
chabala: "But you know I can't marry
you, I'm married to the revolution. You
better be careful, she's jealous, and never
loses. She loves to dance. See you at Rich's
Thursday'.' We'll bring the struggle to every
night club in Houston. Come on, why stay
fighting for truth and commitment, if your
companero (lover-male) or companera
(lover-female) can't dance. No one has ever
said a bomba was counter-revolutionary
or that break-dancing was an anarchist
distraction. My lover, also known as La
Victoria, chose the wrong finger for the
rings, but gave me lessons I'll never forget.
I am like you the strength of two, la lucha
y la cultura. The D. C. Bop and a shotgun,
Siempre, our spouse calls out: "La lucha
continua'.' We dance by the sea between
the land mines. When I married myself
among the jewels of our planet, my husband
taught me to aim accurately, to never
weaken, and never, no matter what, never
forget we fight for love, por amor y la luna;
for the future y nuestra derecho to know
how to read; to have a pair of shoes; to
watch our children grow, not dying flaccid
in our arms, puss oozing from their miniature
limbs. We fight for love.
If you married la lucha by yourself like I
did we can dance all night and wake facing
our beloved, La Victoria. We can't put the
rings on the wedding finger ti! the earth's
jewels swing a treacherous merengue from
the hips of our children and whip like
braided rawhide the columns of the courthouses
where we are tortured and made
ugly, when we know every scar is a beauty
The bee-hive lady is dimming the lights
in her gilded room. She's walking me to
the door, not knowing that next time I
shall bring a brigade of unwed mothers
who will marry themselves, however they
please. We're our own electricity, lady.
These lights won't dim till nuestras companeros
come racing through Hermann
Park, embracing the women who know so
well what they wanted. She married herself.
Her hands moving with his to shout or
caress by bouganvilla, always close to the
soil. He or she moves the wedding band
and the engagement ring to the right finger.
La Victoria is not common. I don't stray
from my old man, though he's not around
much. I can feel his feet trudging those
mountains, feel his breath searching my
cheeks, my neck for a sign that I am there.
Yes, kisses by the glass doors just as the
iron gates slam shut. Kisses that make me
shake ti! I scream out for more, por amor,
amante. We must be two for everyone of
them. We are the jewels of the New World,
hard and sensual. Our romance is tough
like la gitarra armada. A loaded fast dance.
Hey, look every woman on the IRT is trying
to catch the bouquet I bought myself when
I changed from the Flushing Line to the A
train. It's on you honey. You got to be all
you can or you'll find yourself standing at
some altar all by yourself, trying to imagine
why the rest of you is sauntering down
Westheimer looking for a precious stone
without an appropriate setting: some jewel
mistaking herself for rhinestones. Damn, I
only have fifteen minutes to get to the gun
store. Oh, I hope they are not out of those
silver zip-guns. The ballet dancer is still in
Buenos Aires. The taxi driver in Rio doesn't
even know that he is a fascist. None of that
will do me any good, if I try to carry myself
up the stairs. I'ma do a time step like the
Nicholas Brothers. No one will know the
difference. I mean, do I look married to
A woman is soaked to the bone.
She is dragging her suitcase on
jammed buses that keep quitting.
Mud sucks off one shoe. She's alone.
Does not understand directions.
Clay, surge of faces, raw meat,
fish heads and trays of chiles, sweet
steam, the weight of the black
suitcase pulling her shoulder.
She stares at a small girl,
black eyes and starched white dress
of lace and air in a doorway.
The farther she walks
The farther away she gets. Good.
Plaza, park, she's lost, the sky
won't stop, even for the ready
sun. Her hair snakes into curls,
thin clothes showing her skin.
She keeps walking. Tomorrow she will
wear cotton. Tomorrow she will buy
a white gladiola outside the cathedral,
go in and rub one flower on the foot
of the first wooden Jesus she can find.
She will be dry and new.
The Bad, The Ugly,
The Proud, The Disconcerned
Wendy p untenney