Scantily Clad Press, 2009
The following poems have been published or are forthcoming in:
The American Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, paperbagwriter/Brown Paper Bag, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Guernica, Octopus, and Laurel Review.
Strange Gospels Walking into the burning city: girlâ€™s face In grease paint, pink baby doll gown and silver Glitter heels. Tent city, black tar, toxic Funk, spools of refuse. Milk Plum of memory, little bags of clutter: jacks, Cat's eyes, bits of felt from dolls, lost. Coins, slips of papers with numbers. Pass the museum of dead animals, the jewel Pharmacies, juvi lockdown. Collective amnesia, Come on in. Drugs or dust passing through like nothing.
Stages of Disaster Mansions of flat screen TVS Ghosting: pixilated coma. Mothers Starving in the suburbs. An anesthetized Future for all of us. America Dreamland, an endless Prescription for Oxycontin. Wreckage of decadence of what Once was: an Indian rug with blood On it. Lamps with frills and An old broke transistor radio, rusting.
Plush On Hollywood Boulevard the teenage girl Is begging the old man To go into the room with her. Her loneliness is so brutal, It is beautiful. It has its own language. It is female and it goes like this. I wish I had just let myself die, then. The always-drunk garbage man In green combat goggles Is outside my window raving To One Velvet Morning. He wants what everyone wants and he Speaks to me in secret. I understand completely. And have begun now Making myself ready. I am already inside its milky nimbus. For years I hid my body inside the obscene lie Of my shyness. I am teasing the soul out of it now Like a horse being broken, slowly Over many days.
I will change my body into someone elseâ€™s. Hurt it, until it is nothing but meat. Then I will force it to remember everything.
The Great Destroyer Simulacra of culture: waste Land, America. Children living in the Bumble Fuck of train yards. Jail cells, Strip malls, store front labs and Door to door Pfizer Peddlers selling packaged Electrolytes in dime bags. Tanned Army recruiters Cruise the poor manâ€™s mall For sixteen year olds and pretty Boy, vegan dead luckers, Their perfect child-thin arms Ribboned in orange and green Ink dragons and sick, Their whole life, With this disease.
Forming Plastic baggy filled With kiddy pills, I said To Billy when I collect-called him From the Exxon gas station payphone. Deathâ€™s outrageous music is coming back into me. When they came to our house and Took away our father, they Took his wallet with our pictures And his Bic pens from his shirt pocket. They put him in a bus and sent him Into the flame of the desert. Thirteen days with no food. Nothing but Percosets and black Martinis. Zombie drool wasteland, welcome To the dream state Called rescue. There must be a room in this world--
Strange Gospels Encino, off the Interstate. Low flying planes: Secret Service, the Mossaud, and CIA. The deported and the missing Packing flights to Beirut, Grozny, Gaza. Whatever War zone. Crawl the shag into Mars. White-hot light of the motel Bathroom: gorgeous cosmology of urine, Blood, and spit. For no real reason, Fire in the sink, ash and burns On the tile. Sun leaking through The open screen like a planet, seething. They say the first five years define you. The first five years are missing from my memory.
Werewolf or Ghost You stung through me Like Reservation pox Wrapped sweet in military Blankets. I nearly died That night in Pawtucket. Live nude shows in cinder blocks and Porn in bunkers. Slums, whiskey Washed down with cheap beer and fuck It. Drove blind somehow, Someone’s got to— Save me. Ride up on the pony, Winter carousel, and please, Don’t hit me. I miss you. Buy me things Then beat me,
Speechless. You come to me In dreams— Cemetery saint and I swear to God I will Shake this— It’s clinical. You call me prissy Insane bitch. Pretty, Druggy princess. And I don’t Speak, I just Ride up on that pony. Maybe I should have Built myself a boat. Or maybe I should Go live Among the animals.
The Great Destroyer Grew up on self improvement: endless Beauty pageants and daily ballet. The commonplace cruelties of imperfection. This is the story of how I burned it down.
Cheyenne Beautiful, finally, inside the quiet Latrine of my Mexican Confessional: Rode a pony, drove A tractor, and never Finished the first grade. It’s always hardest for the top Angel and he Dropped down to me. Brave, nurse From the Otherworld Crowned me White, burned me Free. Ward of the court, orphan Of seven foster homes, no one knows— So don’t ever Tell them.
The Going Home Song I’m going home Broken. To my trailer parked In the car lot Covered in father’s dust. What you call reparation, I call animal. The American dream Is piss-stained, anyway. I’ve got my father’s power And he got his From dreams. Come and take me If you want, you can Bury me, standing In father’s military garb, with no Ribbons or badges. His mother’s Hand-me-down
Dresses: rainbow-list red and blue Wool, bear hide, saved Thread, spots, and sinew. That there Is the tree we blessed. With Wonder Bread and Cigarettes.
New York State Twenty years in the U.S. Military and, still He let them Fuck him. Walter Read-lockdown, UN-blue duct tape Keep the PTSD away. Blind, suicidal father, it must be In the blood. After the great Darkness and then The smaller operationsâ€” This Beuys-like winter That never ends.
Theater of War I know the woods Like I know the palm of my hand: rabbits, small white foxes, And U.S. Military landmines. When she steps upon the blue-lit stage, The floor of that forest Glistens. Baby blue Eyeshadow and diamond studded tiara. Cream lace illuminates the bones: the gloss Of black ribbon. Three inch crimson Glitter platforms: glued Jewels and junk Streamed off the Kinderswamp. Empress, I was French saint of nose bleeds. Me, And my spastic glue habit. Culture of repetition: Smoking fuselage in a field, a burning sofa. The lawn, A belligerant coup dâ€™etat: sugar And funerary palm. We wait in the garden For the AWACS to save us.
Strange Gospels Fighter planes carrying American cigarettes, and sugar in its diabetic variations: penny candy, Wonder Bread, and cases of generic beer. Convoys of trucks bringing fire water, hundred proof. Antlers, missiles, clusters of wire, crosses, and rope. Spurs, skulls, crossbones, and the white fox of death, stuffed with ripped twenty dollar bills marked counterfeit. A frayed rayon tent. War paint, just in case. Bison leather, horsehair, a blue tarp, an eagle feather. A handbook on exile, every page burned out.
New York State In bleached wig and war Paint, Iâ€™m disguised. And sold All my clothes. Put on the white belt with The thousand flying stitches and Buy a one way ticket To the nearest war zone.
Symposia Stuffed birds in glass cages. And wild, The white Sheltie pony, dappled In black spots. Siberian tigers, and the sorrow Of songbirds: of European starlings, The Old World, fixed in cotton, kept in cages. Melancholic, a menagerie of blotted Memory. And the underwater, subterranea: TV flicker of F16 fighter jets, And American caterpillar tanks. Repeated TV footage of one unknown war zone After another. I keep thinking the darkness Is from the anesthesia. But there was none. In the dark, weâ€™re building bombs From the broke cartilage of poems.
Strange Gospels Motel Limbo, black linen on the bed, trash Bag with stockings and black Standard leotard, worn leather boots and Billyâ€™s boy jeans. The ghost of the television set: white noise, world hum. Movie star president, massacre in Lebanon. Brown children staring at me from inside the TV screen.
Death Star Angel of cocaine Overdoses and middle-aged men Discovered on floors, in bars, In women’s bathrooms— Beneath a juvenilia of stars. Quarantined Adderall and Michelob Chasers. If no one sees, does that mean It never happened? Getting off the medicine Is like a religious experience, But that doesn’t make it religious, Does it? I hope you’ve collected your lies In your exquisite Notebook. And I do agree it’s true: We all are sick.
But some of us Are worse off than others.
Strange Gospels Anodyne, the blonde anchorwoman Repeats the words prepared for her Off the teleprompter screen. Nothing Of war, gasoline, pipelines, or The Caspian. Again, a UN truck Blown up, delivering food and water, Another family killed by teenage soldiers. Flotsam, and the hustling of culture: A little secret something for almost Everyone. Self help books as Bibles, Fake Indian moccasins, yoga, Diet Coke, and simulated war games. And the same ancient train of empire Barrels on. Galaxies of medicine. A psychotropic wunderkammer: Limictol for the unspeakable Rage, Klonopin for the dread, The panic. In the courtroom of Our dreams, we are finally Put on trial.
Dannemore You are lost Star, truck stop, whore On the lit highwayâ€” Somewhere a telephone is ringing For me. I canâ€™t hear it. Oh Lord, Are we ever going to have such great fun After we have killed Ourselves.
The Great Destroyer Fifteen days lost in the desert. Cigarettes and warm cola. Combat-strength sun block And Strawberry Ensure milkshakes. A slumland of the mind. You must know How this body has failed me. Chronic, In ripped red stockings and gold Glitter ballet leotard. White headscarf with the rising sun, and holding My stuffed Snoopy. I have this fever, I canâ€™t tell anyone. But I promise I will Love anyone Who will talk to me.
Year Zero Collective amnesia: repeated TV footage Of endless unknown war zones: American fighter jets and black SUVs and Hummers. Aviator glasses and J Crew Camouflage khakis. Oscar Romero, School of the Americas. KUBARK and its kingdom Of ways of breaking The prisoner. Guantanamo, Delta Block: fifty detainees In permanent delusional state. Nursery songs and baby talk, mistaking The guards for their fathers. Beat down the prisoner, Then refill his brain with clutter. Loudspeakers play the sound of TV talk shows And of animals being slaughtered.
World in pieces, Collective trauma.
Molotov I got my dream pills. They’re wrapped in tin foil And it’s going to be alright. I got sweet Billy with me And he’s still breathing and It’s beautiful, what they’re telling us. Got my enzymes, a nickel bag of Electrolytes. My entire life, I’ve been waiting for this. I got my radio on. I’ve got it hooked into a chip And lodged inside a suburb of thought In my brain, somehow. And it’s weird, how it’s wired. I can hear the fires. I can hear the daisies As they fell the desert. Pretty machete like
Paper Mache confetti of Dropped cluster bombs and now I can hear the Black Hawks wild in their swarm and I’ve got my horses and I’m holding beautiful Billy in my arms. It’s like a song.
Cynthia Cruz is the author of Ruin, a collection of poems published by Alice James Books. Her poems have been published in many journals including the American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, AGNI, Boston Review, Paris Review, and Denver Quarterly and has poems forthcoming in the Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and Field. She lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.