Scantily Clad Press, 2009
for Hayley, David, and the pamplemousse
Ornamentality Indeed. A festoon’s worth in blandness, an expanse truncated & left in a wad of wet newspaper; fodder for pigeons & other profligates in need of nests. I want to be a movie star, a moving star, a mute in starred pajamas. The day goes like this: 1, 2, 2 ½, C, etc; a bum-rush of bedraggled tick-tock & whatnots galore. I find myself a sippy-cup & ten-light candelabrum, to say nothing of the busted coffee spoon, the likes of which have not been seen since the 5 & dime went 99. Do you ruffle? Or shun bunting? Mistrust the finials, the small crown carved into your tongue– we ate so eagerly & ripped our diadems, exposed satin strewn from the base of a contraband cat-nap. At four o’clock, all I could think to want was a pair of scissors so I could cut blue strips from blue paper to paste on top of other blue papers & stud with broken light bulbs until the entire table crumbled under the heft of my approximate sky.
Zanzibar I love you flat against the oceanâ€™s face Red as an egg when itâ€™s green You lead me to a clearing Soft as a quail in hand You lean me to your side As if it was a pearl coated olive-tree Given balance Given bed In relation to the before and after life insists under rubber eyelids
Makes Believe Once. Once. Never looks right, so spelled out窶馬either does Hello. There was a real dog named Humperdink, a thousand ghost horses in the swimming pool; we ran on the rubber gymnasium floor, one comeback after another. Past lives happen all the time, all in a time most presently, all before coffee. How were we, really? And how are? So effortlessly cobbled from one century to another, dropped head first through a twenty minute recess. Calyxed in our penny-scarves, on the way to chapel, Sarah. Always, Sarah. My own
name, I’ve never truly learned to spell. Again, transposed, our flawlessness with trapdoors, spells badly cast; but, didn’t we sing so cockney and bright? All worlds skipped rope between us, fidgeting for lights out. The conjured, learning backflips from thumb-tack to chalk outlines on the sidewalk. The prairie’s waxed weeds rough us up, tough us up for winters wrapped in sod. Weave a loose-leaf cradle and put your dolls inside before they’re stripped for parts and wonder. They’ve already sold my five figurines of elsewhere for thirty cents apiece to a neighbor who won’t know how to put the tails back on.
Dismantle the tree house all stripped of arms and platforms; if this isnâ€™t my Pittsburgh, it must be my bag of charcoal horse-heads, it must be my cryptogram colored over with black crayon. Yes, and this must be my green green grass, and these, my rosebud tea-cups motherfucker.
What May Not Be Expected in the Country of Eternal Light? Unfortunate torch-bearers all— What & what & what to do? I’m mapping an escape route, flummoxed by questions of escalation: Alas, what kind of señorita were you seeking? Our only way out is by gondola. If wishes were chickens I’d need an economist to account for all the crap and a chef to fry the wings. All week, one winding staircase & then another & another— Where does the tower go & where its emblazoned spire? The unicorn cross-stitched on my chest cranes his head toward the lemon-tree sprung from a twitch in my eye-lid. Or? A lute player crashed in the room of 10,000 de-puffed fainting couches.
We couldn’t find him for days, our bodies mistaken for torrential nimbi. A lighthouse visible 19 miles from shore, but the ship’s waylaid at 19 ½; a shout sunk somewhere between: What is that almost glimmer, that vacant flicker, so reminiscent of lame? Who summoned thunder? (that one word: Lightning) Whose final bubble broke &, unbosom’d, lit the sky from behind? A sizzle snuffed in firmament: underwater, under-breath, understand? Once again it blooms beyond me.
Salted Confections 1 Satiety is a canker at the bottom of the sundae bowl: for now, by gosh, at least we still have our hands.
2 Up close the voodoo’s nudged into your chin and suddenly the kettle turns Vesuvian.
3 Don’t ever say “there is a storm inside me” again – tell me it’s a shipwreck; a mutinous galleon whose warped planks crack and impale deck-hands. Vortex abounds. Tell me people are screaming. Bad men who ate rat feet for tea are crying like the sky
got shredded in a rusty cotton gin and then all the mothers who never existed are tossed in with their babies, and O, it’s a day awash in thick and boiling blood. There’s a pistol with one ball left and someone shoots at the smoke and flaming sails. The albatross is coughing so hard you can’t split the sting from the shriek. You’re going down. You’re going down. I don’t want to hear about the clouds.
4 Always keep in mind: You are you. I am me. She is me. He is me. But you are also sometimes me.
5 We is a tale best slipped on poolside.
6 All the cat got was a shaft of sun to wallow in. Convince me there is anything more.
7 Hell bound fedoras! Frivolity, my name is a pair of tangerine pumps, worn on the first day of spring: a woman waiting for a phone call as she constructs plans for a lotus lined foot-bridge to Bora Bora.
8 Some things I ask for. Some things I donâ€™t.
9 Tiger finches in my brotherâ€™s basement believe in cowboys.
11 World, world, world â€“ why does three times make more sense? Must emphasis be redundant yet sage so simultaneously? Do you miss me? Do you miss me? Do you miss me?
12 Yes. It was I who took the frozen apple pie and drop-kicked it off the Brooklyn Bridge.
13 The Queen said: If I have to look at one more portrait of myself, I am going to take the daggers from my gaze and have them replaced with turpentine.
14 All I ever want is a picnic.
15 Let me tell you about the time we walked across the desert because of the treasure. I was surely going to die
and you only wanted the one word I refused to say: the where of it. So you had to keep me breathing, but only barely. Dragged on and on so rough. At least the fever kept me delirious. Skin peeled off my face. You withheld water and whiskey and I am still pressed to answer which I resent most.
16 Tweet, tweet. We canâ€™t separate the red birds from the blue. We who are so often torn.
Taco Truck to Awesometown All the waterfront property in Funkytown was taken, & we knew the dog-days of groove were slumped & shaking in the corner, drowning in pools of mohair & leather; it was time. The tattoo above my ass says: enough with nutshells, I want almonds. Like most things, it has to do with an ache. There were no circles under our eyes, but octagons & trapezoids; all night the barbaric yawn of feral iambs kept us chewing on our blankies. Say, it was time to wipe our noses & shut up, it was time to say yes to hot-sauce, queso-blanco, & lime: It was time to tighten our lips & trousers & get up, not down; time to get this motherfucking freak-show on the road.
Do Not Hold in Hand After Lighting We took to the dunes & made stars like making out against a wrought iron coil of fence evoking closure & tongues, damnation & waves, all at once pressed against your back in the manner of temporary tattoos. We made out like rawhide lassos rapt with bull horns, made commemorative stamps of our freckled behinds as they began to glow in afterthought. Reminiscence #1: I already forgot what we sealed in airtight yearbooks & shipped to Tuskegee under the guise of unused clippings from this summer’s buzz cuts, then H-bombed the bejeezus out of old gymnasiums in Pittsburgh because nobody will ever look good in gym shorts. Who let this happen? We are better off left panting on shorelines where we crawl from keg to impossibly Floridian beach towels like many gods before us: foamy, exhausted, concerned only with bonfires. In the event of enormous explosions, check to see if you’re still heaving. They have names for these things: in a word, Rapture. Catherine wheel, I thought. Lay on ground – Light fuse – Get away: powder fills the spiral & and we think we’re always alive, flares emblazoned Oooh & Ahhhh; I feel this in my molten core in unison with you,
as mollusks buried below switch sexes, split a share & hardly notice how the earth is constantly shaking— how the earth is constantly shaking. Rupture & open & slide on in. The bamboo penguin in my pocket pointedly bruises my burns: no one’s having fun unless they’re about to lose a finger & the triggered point I reach for absentmindedly leaves its white T-shirt flagged to a box of cherry-bombs. In the gloaming, the high-school reunion wanders by, pointing out how little anything changes & how wrong we always are.
Postcard from Atop the Human Pyramid Zanzibar, mon amour; park your dune-buggy by the dock, Papa: we must compare flight-patterns. Apron-strings tied to our water skis pull us willy-nilly across the parallelogramâ€” paired off, eye and shoe, our nakedness observed like a bank holiday; we bypass gravity without blinking an inch.
So, We Say, Says I O, potentate, mine and fully me, we own all the eye-candy we can see, yet splinter our affections in search of sandcastles with a two-car garage. The pants we wear today make us want an arctic beach house tomorrowâ€” yet the synesthete in me thinks one and two will make purple babies on an orange raft linked by the bones of love-broken elevens. We read your diary yesterday and are appalled by use of the word I. Weâ€™ve taken to calling you me. This book says: I have hired a vessel, and am occupied in collecting my sailors. My reign is not yet over, says I, the compass rose lodged in my throat. How we wish we could say the same even though we just have. This depiction of ice-flats needs work: ardent attempts to freeze-over go tepid on the tongue. We are resolute.
What could be better than a six-month afternoon and a knack for sculptures of see-through courtiers who never melt? Where did all the birds go? We defer in favor of squinting. Then we smile and say, Ahoy, ahoy— Here is an ice pick: go to. Set passage to end-stop and an edge to spill over. We never minded blanks at the end, so long as there’s a pen to draw in the stares. Are you cold, Monster? Isn’t your parka invincible? Ours is made of brass and covered in lightning. This figment, self-appointed, manhandles the adversarial like a daisy.
In Long Island City, Because it is So She says: We have too many keys to keep us in one place; too many places to steep under one face, and just this gust of donut-powder in the wind, how it bolsters the sky-line.
I Rose to Flail Among the Luminous Demotions from hola to nope: I want to learn the names of knots in the order of their slipping, sporting a fuchsia wig, nothing but diamonds spewed into Mr. Microphone. Rope invites burn—a vaudevillian smack: the kerfuffle had pirouettes for brunch. The cerulean horse-head’s gone the way of the treehouse, so cease and desist all mention of see-saws; [insert your snap here with scowl and backpack]. Stomachs have churned for fewer inches. If you were a Polaroid I would have smeared you before you developed sharp cheek bones. Surly child hurling glares: surly man drinks a can of milk. You plush snubber, go thumb your soggy hymnal: go sing your stretch of tundra— an unfurled rug between the ribs; beat it thin with rolling pin and flat of fist.
* Depend on deep-end splashing. Orange floaties deflated after years of rejection: I never wait 30 minutes before jumping up and in. I’m a know-nothing of abominable snow angel proportions: you, you’re a see-nothing of 20/20 blue. After getting to know the statues better, I spoke to a candle about polish and where I go wrong* (*roof-tops, particularly in weather; this much is clear). As if this wasn’t gothic enough, a tour bus stopped at the cathedral beneath my feet, its passengers poured into silver jumpsuits; they sigh in my general direction and throw buttons into the alms box: Thank You for your donations to the Church of Yes, This Again. It’s the albino peacock that keeps me upended.
Acknowledgements La Petite Zine: Ornamentality; I Rose to Flail Among the Luminous; Taco Truck to Awesometown MiPoesias: Postcard from Atop the Human Pyramid; In Long Island City, Because it is So Capgun: Do Not Hold in Hand After Lighting; So, We Say, Says I
Cate Peebles lives and eats tacos in Brooklyn, NY and is an assistant at the literary agency, Sobel Weber Associates. She is the recipient of an artist grant from the Vermont Studio Center and her poetry appears/ has appeared in such journals as: Tin House, Octopus, La Petite Zine, MiPoesias, CutBank, Cannibal, Forklift, Ohio, and Tight. Poems have been anthologized in Boog City Reader: An Antholgy of New York City Poets and Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House. She co-edits the online poetry magazine, Fou (www.foumagazine.net).