I step out to buy toilet paper and through the chorus of cars,
I think I hear the delicate, steady clip-clop of horse hooves.
The sound grows insistent, and through the leaves of the trees,
I sight the tips of white feathers—plumes of white feathers
like river reeds swaying in tandem with the breeze. One by one,
two white horse heads materialize, nostrils flaring with indignity
at their frou-frou headdresses, at being roped to this surrey
in, of all places, Brooklyn. An old black man taps
a steadying hand to his lopsided top hat—it, too, a monstrosity—
as he begrudgingly flicks the reins. White limousines follow.
Surely this is a movie set or an Irish funeral. Then I spot them
in the back of the cart: a couple, just married from the looks
of her dress, a bit dazed and—could it be? Yes. Embarrassed,
wondering just when this seemed like a good idea.
The woman—the new wife—sees me and waves, as if wanting
to make this the moment she’s dreamed, wanting the world to see
she is loved by someone who appears to be a nice-enough man.
He doesn’t wave, but he smiles, and tries to look less sheepish.
After all, it’s early November, late afternoon—
and there is yet some sun and someone to have seen them.
Lissa Kiernan’s poems, essays, and reviews can be found in numerous journals and anthologies, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Founder and director of The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative, a provider of online workshops, Lissa currently makes her home in Brooklyn, New York. Visit lissakiernan.com for more.
I am not blaming you for Rick’s absurd behavior
and I am certainly not taking his side. Hiding
in the shower, claiming to be the messiah,
gibbering of men with scarves and knives.
And still, you encourage him with the hummingbirds
of your chest, the deep sigh of your inner thigh.
Is it the snakeskin boots, how his Stetson tilts and droops,
that makes your navel trill sweet drops of suicide?
Wait. Stop this now. I know you want to! See how
we do this every time? That first tomato of the season
is not the biggest nor the sweetest; there’s no need
to be so greedy. Consider, too, its nightshade,
not deadly, but poison — an itch left on your lips. Lick it.
You will taste him. Hold out your hand. It will graze
his spurs, before he digs them, harder than necessary,
into your groin. Close your eyes. Picture white,
white eggshells. Barefoot, step lightly. He will return
smelling of marinara and belching her perfume.
Is that blood on his shirt or a complex Barbarossa?
What a year for things acidic and dry: the sun
ripening your summer hair, the bite behind his thirst!
From what desert has he risen to find you naked, mussels
spilling from your hands, lisping peyote pardons
through impacted wisdom teeth?
Go on, limp towards him. There will always be honey
in your pink eye, feathered clothes, and new toys
for your return. You might clutch a Nerf ball to your belly
lean over the tippy-top of the stairs, and take flight.
Then again, he might drunk dial you from Paper Cut City,
make it home in time to catch the tail end of the news:
a man on the loose, wanted for stealing sap from the heart-
wood of half-grown maple trees. And here it is,
wrapped up in your grandmother’s afghan that you come
back to me. What is it that I am, still to you? Aging
professor in shiny elbow patches, tantric guru, shrink
with boundary issues, guardian angel? I could swing
your flesh around me like a robe. I could read the deep
creases in your wrist. I could take you back again.
Lock you in the crawl space of my heart. Play
your bones like bamboo flutes.
Hang your wings—
like heirlooms on the vine.
by Lissa Kiernan and Susan Yount