Surely it is not art. She pulls her phone from her pocket and steps to the stage. Her first time. Tapping the screen, she balances it on the ancient music stand. Grips the mic with both hands. Through ums and mumbles, she describes a man who called it love before the girl learned the proper name for abuse.
Surely this is not poetry, nowhere close to art.
Art you know. You saw Gipsy Kings at the Barns and walked Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn. You can recite Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” by heart.
Down here, sand slips free from the shape
it took since last rain,
a low creek creeping up the bank
sloughing away any illusion of permanence.
The soft, fat hide of the earth glistens, catching the stray glint
and tossing it back, wild and wide.
Something buried in the thawing deep
scratches away at its carapace.
I press my spine against the old skin
willing it to split even though it is early still,
even though it will leave me raw,
Another frost sure to come.
The first one tells fart jokes.
The second refused to vote for Hillary.
“I just couldn’t,” he says. “Too dirty.”
The third brought a gun to a spat with his wife
and now visits his kids supervised.
The fourth hates his parents still, over four decades in.
The fifth – well. The fifth moved his folks
into a condo down the road so his girls could grow up with them close.
The fifth leads the pack for several long laps.
Here comes the babysitter. You’re pumped. His appearance promises a night of board games, TV, living room dance parties. He’ll make mac & cheese for dinner and skip the broccoli entirely. Turn up the volume on bands you’ve never heard of. Dress up like a Sith Lord and let you annihilate him after a protracted battle that covers every floor of the house.
You may pass several hours draped in sequins and spiked on sugar. Playing, yes. But for show, not for keeps. Playing for this night only. Playing with the door closed.
The babysitter has one job: keeping you safe until your parents get home.
My friend and I walk through a spice shop. We pull corks from jars and hold them up to our noses, gasping with delight, recoiling in alarm. Paprika, ginger, barbeque rub. The woody sawdust of galangal. Tarragon’s foresty tang.
She tells me about last weekend’s terrible date. The fellow kept fishing for a flirt and grabbing at her hand. She didn’t push the hand away. Didn’t tell him no. She is young. She is still worried about being alone forever.
I wonder when she’ll figure out that fear of the unknown far outstrips the actual miseries we meet? That the ways we guard ourselves becomes our true devastation?
Picture the vines creeping from his collar.
The stem snaking.
The petal pink and thick as a human ear unfurling from the place his cheek should be.
Pollen-pouched bees yellowing as they gather
what he was always bound to become.
What comes next.
This is our revenge.
Those of us he mounts to build the crystal barricade,
its pearled locks and curtains
thin as whispers and thick
as what stands between dimensions.
He designed it all to let in the curated glow
and keep out everything that makes the light.