What I’ve Lost
A taste for Southern Comfort. Umbrellas:
two in a week when I was down
to eight bucks in the bank halfway
to payday and rain in the forecast, tail
end of a hurricane that blew
through Cuba, kissed the coast
of Florida and ricocheted into Philly
where its gray buttocks of sky squatted
over us for days. I tied a garbage bag
turban style, swanned past
the row of four-star restaurants
on Walnut Street, imagining I
was a forties movie queen shooting
a scene on a wet set. Next payday, I dropped
seventy bucks on a steak and a bottle
of rose, something French
and unpronounceable, curly
on the tongue. The sun
was out. I forgot
about rain and sweet
in my throat.
* * *
Him to Her: 1969
Summer before last I parked cars at
the country club—high-class rides with seats
softer than a baby’s face, as wide as beds.
Men in white dinner jackets dropped tips
in my palm, told me to watch myself
with their brand new Caddies or else.
My boss called me kid if we weren’t busy,
hey, asshat when we were, threw keys
at me. I used to pretend those cars were mine
and the world was my kingdom: the dimes
riding heavy in my pocket, the wives
who smelled of smoke and roses, the chime
of ice against glass, the sprinklers tossing
silvery coins of water to the grateful grass.
* * *
And Then I Blew It
What did I know about sex? Nothing
but what I’d learned in eighth grade
health class: the proper names
for private parts I located
and labeled on a cartoon girl:
her uterus a lima bean, ovaries a pair
of acorns pinioned in the twin trunks
of her Fallopian tubes. I aced every quiz
that year but knew nothing
of the body, its boggy smells and odd
topographies, though I pretended to,
like a tourist who’d experienced Paris
through a car window. What did I know
about blow job? I understood it literally
as an occupation. My first night at work
I surveyed all of his avenues and alleys, mapped
every crack and bump. I kissed him
pink, held on a high whole note, long
enough to set every dog in town to howling.
* * *
In the Psych Ward, My Mother Thinks
a zinc pig is God.
Witness this rosary
of ants, black beads strung
along a linoleum floor.
How a broom splinters,
How the chrome bumper gave
her back her face.
How blood smells, a root
cellar in winter.