The Tiger’s Tail
City, a howl of chemical laughter;
menace fingers the air, seeking purchase
in the drunken smoulder of narrow streets.
Young girls toss ironed curtains of ebony hair —
shared tribal head-dress. Tiger sucklings,
knock-kneed, moon-eyed calves, they perch on the heights
of borrowed triumph: Prada, Miu Miu, Louboutin.
Fierce children, almost feral, wresting frenzied
joy from the teeth of new calamity:
night yawns deep, and they do not know it.
Car headlamps sweep the junction, horns blare;
ground shifting beneath them again, the girls
totter into the bloom of darkness,
each on milky limbs, pale and slender as a birch.
28 October 2011
White slab on the doormat, postmark,
a familiar china blue — the forfeit
of dignity in monthly increments —
and I’m sick to my stomach, again;
on TV, Occupy Wall Street,
as though greed were a discovery,
injustice, a shiny toy or the new black.
I’ve been in my foxhole for three years now,
dug in behind enemy lines: terraced walls,
the polite exterior of war; wrestling
the slick of their machinery, bare hands
ink-bloodied in daily skirmishes with quicksand
bureaucracy and you — with the placard,
the ironic slogan — where the fuck were you?
iPod, laptop, coffee machine (never used),
good for fifty euro, maybe more;
not to be sniffed at, enough to score
probiotic yoghurt, three weeks of Lexapro,
prescribed, of course. You’re nothing without your health.
Sweating, nerves buzzed, I trip rain blacked streets,
flash electrical goods at likely marks:
people who still care about appearances.
Don’t judge me, I wasn’t born this way.
I blame my parents — the ones who weaned me
on this crippling addiction to comfort — pushing
Food, Money, Education as security.
And when the world takes my roof, I learn to crave Roof.
And when the world take my land, I learn to crave Land.
And when the world takes my voice, I learn to crave Voice.
And when the world takes my power, I learn to crave Power.
My parents should have raised me a gypsy:
shown me the road, the cut of air,
the smell of dirt.
I smell it now.
The Talking Cure
The day I pull my face together,
paint lash and liner (the ordinary mask)
is, predictably, the day you make me cry,
as though the smudge of black across my lids
is just the beginning: a surface schism.
You draw me like a rotten tooth:
another battle-blooded version
of myself — raw and tentacled, untethered —
and, as you show me the extraction,
hold me up and turn me over,
I hang there, and sit here —
all tear-stung, throaty bile-burn,
oozing rust-rivered, black-eyed jangle —
and poke the ragged opening
with my tongue.
A craw wind catches me and I trip
past gatepost guardians, the turn of railings,
into the hospital grounds. Hypodermic
drinks darkness deep, shows it to the light;
an apple’s skin can never know its core.
In the sting of a burnished room,
glass and disinfectant hold me safe and distant,
the scratch of gown makes me smaller than I am.
A cracked voice cuts into the hollow
of the machine, as it spins and slices me
like ham. Don’t worry, it says. You’re almost done.
Inside the blink and grind, the growl of plastic –
deep and still – I see a field in the half-light
of summer’s dusk, grasp a long feathered grass,
the nub of its soft head, wet like a kiss.
Three black lines, track to another somewhere,
pass the house and barn, their cut silhouette
gentle: an inevitable homecoming.
I find a face in a tree, there; black eyes,
truffle snout, mouth agape in silver skin.
I hold its gaze in the drizzle of darkness,
humming to myself; the tree bends to listen.
I hum the song again, in the quiet room,
where they tell me, spinning tree, grass, night,
through and through my fingers. Back out on the street
the wind shifts; I brace for the oncoming squall.