Scantily Clad Press, 2009
Some of these poems have appeared, sometimes in earlier forms, in the following journals and radio shows: Ocho and De con structions.
Today happened to me. The train I am stuck in turned round sleep for a month. I walked in all that anatomy and waited for him to pause. Plot gives off halt like yards of wedding linen. After eating eggs I suffered the blood of her husband. Before, I always believed that sin was different. But lookâ€” a good talk, hands in painful restraint. You are the first. I know I am but a chamber. I know a perverted appetite can become permanent. I desire hot, spicy condiments. You will know what happened when immediately afterward the woman exhibits morning.
The Births Births are a special delight in Wisconsin: their decorative baroques, their colostrums and thanksgivings before a snowy witness. Many births are pioneer tremorsâ€” spectacles that grow in soil exposed by fishhooks, flukes that open and release poltergeists in torrents. After pregnancy, the female fluidity becomes a solid confection.
Congratulations 1. My rabbit didn’t die; it’s hidden in the prickly hedges that no one touches, shivering, worry running its heart. I push my mouth into my pillow and it keeps what I’ve said inside its useless pockets. When bread dough catches in my fingers, we lick them clean together. The rabbit hops up to our mat (Welcome to our Happy Home!), then skitters back ward, fearing our sudden laughter over port, your favorite intoxicant, and mine— something with lemons and bubbles and bursts.
2. My rabbit is dead; it cannot hide between the velvet leaves that everyone wants to touch. It drops down heavy in its skin, the heart soaked. When I settle on a pillow it bursts sleep and feathers. Bread loaves rise from my hands when flour stickies between my fingers. Our rabbit’s ghost hops into our hallway, invited by the silence. We’ve purchased a plastic chair so it can join us. You’ve got your favorite intoxicant— gin—and I have something dead, like milk, before me.
During the birth A woman of thirty two with sound mind and body and temporarily depraved appetites upon awakening found conversation pouring forth from her right breast Several writers have seen this manifestation during coitus, speak with desire tongue hung says the patient was unusually vigorous and that many women furnish curious vapors that blur the landscape and terrain of their night dresses
I have been drinking heavily, stupidly (beer before liquor, never sicker), for weeks, but feel the effects only now as the lace of grass blades presses into my cheek on the frat-house lawn. Everything is as painfully green as boys’ knees, as Ohio under snowfall. I walk home alone naked and watch the finger-bruises purple in my three-way mirror as I run a comb through my hair. Suddenly, I see that I am unmistakably pregnant—a hard gut juts just above my hip-bones. I sleep on a mattress laid on cinderblocks. I do not remember where I spend my days. I remember sweet-smelling paper. I remember the boy with the cleft chin putting his jacket over my naked shoulders, though it was sticky and we were flushed with something. I remember that I have been drunk for days and have been before and have been over and over, coming up only to eat and do laundry in the basement, my bare feet cold on the concrete floor. I feel it moving right now. I can feel that its arms and legs are not right—stumpy, loose in their sockets. I consider hemorrhaging, thick Maxi-Pads and a prescription that I used to buy by the dozen from Jackson, who has a constant flare-up of chin acne, though he is much older than I am (bald spots creep up his temples and create a sharp peak of hair). I consider the child squalling in its own plastic crib, spit bubbling from its split lip. I notice that it is now wiggling down my knee as my vein-draped belly deflates. I watch my days running in the mirror, a film I’ve seen before with a plot I cannot remember, though some of the images seem familiar—a man and woman meeting on the observation deck of a very tall building, a terrible accident coming between them. The child’s limber; all of its little legs work together like a diagram’s toothy wheels and cogs animated. It smells heat and gravitates toward it, like anything growing. I stand between its feelers and the open window.
I knew a little girl of hot milk who grew into a woman of appetite for her husband and keeping journals. She held her hands in painful restraint, created good topics of conversation. Her doctor sometimes reported, on being seized with the usual symptoms of history, that she’d say
would you care for a toast cup and how things are can you tolerate milk in your tender split pea? I don’t believe this story. I saw him seem strange with new acquaintances— at the chair’s edge, eyes brightened, tongue between the teeth.
The doctor’d always say that in the bitter cold she’d could make a nice fire. Those were his exact words.
He sat in her chair and confessed his hopes for the globe till morning.
The Illness It acts obliquely sewing new bone where the blood bends listen to the pulse of the lesions which extend to those steps of heaven as for example with certain multiple fractures you must make sure the children are filled with red are still breathing find the base of the skull where that airplane throws itself into the clear over and over again
Recovery If on accident I look at those sutures left loose I canâ€™t avoid the danger the wall of the cavity all that dead bone is just a reminder I will pay by check I will learn again to write numbers after some time just make sure the children send me their handwritten letters saying that theyâ€™ll try to come over
We do not fear being called meticulous, inclining as we do to the view that only the exhaustive can be truly interesting. Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
We do not fear being called dishabille— only a mannequin can be truly lucky. We’ve gone beyond the tingaling of shallots, also probably of song senses, of the shade trees and sentimentality. We sit on the deck and drink our effervescence. It’s funny to imagine, but as I lift my liquor, a restless decay monkeys up my ligaments. This misfortune doesn’t make us weep. We do not seek escape on the crepitation rale: all climbing is only fear transformed. It has no complexion, it breathes no rumor. It has no complaint, no associations. It lacks all content.
You know the tale You, listener, have had a similar experienceâ€” eating all the linen, devouring enormous quantities of hardwood, including my umbrella, a perverted appetite for milk and breasts, a peculiar longing for honeycombâ€” but no matter. Take a deep breath. You are only a chamber and this writing is a vapor hanging over any day that came before. Itâ€™s bitter cold out there. Come in. We can stuff silence in this bit of tin. It will resolve itself into a symptom symposium. A splendid time will be had by all.
Anticipation Skin pink with blood is soon joy in the bounding But these moods vary so Pleasure can only be removed by rubbing with dry gauze But this girl will show herself again in somebody familiar in their cavity of bone in their hands over their ears from a loud dog barking Itâ€™s no surprise to me that she proves much stronger in the describing
Anticipation #2 Expect that headlong flaming from the skin, slightly effused with blood. Her garment is very tight, so inducing a promiscuous cloud, an astringent. By the inflamed sea he stood on the bare strand while the danger still hovered in the air. The wounds had healed he tore himself again and again.
An Adult Relationship He said he was not a boyâ€™s kite or the burden of its twine around his fist or the sky it beats in I cannot have
your name tattooed on me It occurred to me then that dying is when heâ€™ll be touched by the cigarâ€™s lit end The string tugged, then snapped, and I dropped to my knees finally and had to repeat one can fall in love one must fall in love one must fall in love one must
Our Haunts The old organ factory’s still all slat shingles, jutting like cheapjack dentures, sunk in a gravel pit, the splay of dry rock slapping the forest’s veins and fingers back. We like its clammy, bully damp, its darker, its black spaces perfect pits for trash, for gutted apple bongs and boyfriends. The forest mills, drunk lover, hangs over the factory’s shoulder, pushing its battered green shadow. We imagine an organ tumbling from a window— no scream of plinks, like a piano, but a toothy hum and vibration. See those hooks and pulleys in the gulley? The nests of catgut and chopped ivory? We like to scream the word catgut—how it thumps in the leaf scuffle. We like to play down on our luck, eating
hard-boiled eggs, shells cutting our palms. We watch for the raw, ripped metal of that gutted truck, rust rashing up its belly. We like to pull the wood straight from the planer, hands bloodied on the slivers, to imagine all the dead men in their blues and boots. We like to take each other to the edge of a broken window and saw our bodies across it. We won’t hurt ourselves. Don’t worry, it’s just playacting, empty for two dug furrows like a cut throat in a black and white photograph.
The loveseat he shows us is heart-splattered and all dirty linen where the heads and asses were planted. How could we refuse something free and so perfect for our own new living room? The hearts in transit turn pink in sun splashes. Mind the puddles. Somebody’s telephone tins its counsel by Beyonce song she says to ring the alarm. Lately, the police are politer as they patrol our little alley, their belts full of useful appliances, their outfits blue and unconfusing. I know exactly which of the slouchy drug users they are. Do you? The plainclothesman asks me where he can find crack in this city. He winks he wants me to help him so badly. He has a moustache perched on his lip like a tree of broccoli. I don’t know, I say, I can’t help you. He shuffles away. In movies, policemen accompany expectant mothers, their motorcycles clearing a busy street path, their siren announcing expectation. I want to be in the front seat breathing with difficulty as he clears a path for us, you steering.
The policeman’s moustache will say Don’t you worry, Ma’m. Everything
will be taken care of, you just sit back and do your job. And my job will be only breathing and yours only true and committed steering.
The Jackpot The monogamous are like the very rich. They have to find their poverty. They have to starve themselves enough. -Adam Philip
We are too flush our bosky hedge funds are fecund— we calculate the slow growth the return but lets try to poormouth again I’ll be Cinderella pre-slipper and you be a cockney starveling we’ll settle in the slums together hold struck matches— our barren grate won’t bloom— against our fingers where they have purpled in December we’ll wolf cold casseroles of aspic and crackers afterward still famished we’ll shake off our poor white delicates and glut until surfeited see
how easy it can beâ€”the slow slide soft as a church rummage sale t-shirtâ€” when you have nothing else to say take me
into your alms and mean it ?
I think you are coming to me but you turn and are off with your new acquaintance still sitting at the edge of an alarming illness You who acquired a taste for charcoal a madness for the powder inside caplets still believe it will resolve itself by itself Your great faith in boiling water and delicate instruments! (A cup of weak tea will
start me off proper) This day is ten degrees colder than any day that has come before it I forgot to mention that in your absence I have started eating plaster flour salt dirt and ashes
The Vacation How like the place I filed away and decided to forget— I do not scratch at the lock or touch its hinges. Don’t you think this summer has been so hot? I try to convince the air around me with gestures of assurance, while my body throws itself across any sharpness, sits motionless, or stands by the sea and calls for more thunder. Until then, I’ll walk on the beach, the hail tearing my throat.
Comfort It’s not enough to own a mirror, a stack of sticky prints, a whole quiver of compliments. I’m becoming my mother. Midnight summoned the color of babies just before they succumb— that one purple cough. For mother’s comfort we gather little films of our friends wishing us well as we depart. We play house with those bald-headed babies—such soft bodies—and all those dishes she hopefully bought us.
Leftovers Close your eyes— a necklace of safety pins holds her throat closed. Tangles of trinkets clink. I know you don’t mean to be violent but fastened tight as hedges, just how you like it. Once, piles of holiday sand made their own falling shapes in your hands. You loved the dry, palpable fluid. You liked holding fistfuls of it. Once, a woman unwound a leather coil from her elbow and left it in the belly of your hurricane pantry. It melded into the wood’s fissures. Now it’s a permanent fixture. Her bracelet bolts the sky above your little desk closed— or zips it open—
Which one? It’s all in your head. to make up your own version.
We a t h e r U p d a t e s E v e r y Q u a r t e r H o u r The sound of rabbits screaming is supposedly awful. Awful, too, is the unexpected scrape of shovel across the grit of blacktop, or a sliding ice-sheet down the rippled tin. Sudden opacity is a problem. The mountain’s white curves where the power lines cut, the river that keeps each boat’s imprint for hours on the lazy pattern of its water—both are absent until you come close enough to touch them. The neighbor knows fifty-five years of who has died and where and on what numbered interstate. The boy is still a little wrong. She pins her Christmas sweater’s sleeve in a neat roll at the elbow. I listen with tongue clicks. Sudden opacity was the problem. Grandma kissed the blue Mary on the dash before we climbed the mountain. I think that I should wait by the squat, knobriddled weather radio. It’s a solid block of plastic wood-grain, no battery hole, no music, no news, and the voice, all business, seems to come from the past. I’ll wait to hear if it’s too bad to go, too bad too early to stay, or better enough to make the going in the thick dark worth the surprise of street and ice over and over under our bad tires.
Out of the Question I cannot possibly make every word come in contact with the bone. Instead, I’ll walk with thunder bristling around me like a column of angels— the air pinpricked, sulfured, and solemn. They’re asking me to lie low now, or rather to lie. They say that dying is nothing but when you bring the body back to what it always signified.
Letitia Trent's work has appeared in
Black Warrior Review, The Denver Quarterly, and Fence, among others. She lives in Brattleboro, Vermont.