Come, girls, come,
Want to keep off the chill?
Wrap your head in cloth
To hide the head-dust and sores.
Hide the greying at the roots,
And the rasp in your voice.
Pretend you’re younger–
Talk higher, dip your eyes
And cross your legs like they’ve never been spread.
Pretend you’re a young thing,
Fresh out from under
Your Father’s table.
Smear your eyes with ash
And pretend that you’re a fire,
That burns without light.
Dab your lips in the blood-dust of butterflies
If the Pox hasn’t got you
Like it did poor Anna.
Or Mary was it?
Laid down once and caught It like a chill.
“Didn’t have a chance,” we said.
“Poor thing needs a prayer
And a hope God takes her.
Good Christ Jesus, have mercy on her.
Poor and sick and sorry to be,
Just like Magdalene, she is.”
Just like Magdalene, we are–
Fools hoping after a Dead Man
In a chapel devoid of angels.
Killing is quiet at first.
Not strange for a girl to get gone In a place like this.
But there was energy in this death
That spread out like lightning
Arching from one target to another–
Those who didn’t fall were burned
When did we become like bags of giblets–
Toy boxes brimming with amusements for the wicked?
A smile as a safeguard
Is naught but fantasy–
The feeders transfigure it into an open door;
A yawning, dead cavity that would echo
If not for the wailing.
Just wait until my breath goes out,
Tinkerer in the dark.
It’s not the act that disturbs us
But the impatience.
In this oily-lit night,
There is no love in the stars.
They twinkle gaily above the violence
Mocking our concerns of flesh
As they sit in the loud silence
Of their ever-burning bodies.
With no nerves to feel the pain,
Yet no eyes to see their brilliance.
How far must we fly
To reach that detached majesty?
How lovely to be regarded
But too far to claim, too hot to touch,
Too numb to care.
We exist now in the plane between horror and joy–
Morning breaks and we are ecstatic to have
Another day to wait for Death.
The Claimant has not come to stake us.
The district has not been renamed.
The room has not yet been let.
But, again, the fog rolls in
And the sound of hooves recedes
The doors around me close
And I am left alone to wait
For the glinting that signals
Another night’s work:
A pair of eyes, a pocket watch, the knob of a cane?
My face melts into the glare of a lamppost
So we may both have anonymity.
I feel you see me and I wonder,
“Whose fate do I share this night?”
The night whispers back
The essence of nothing.
I think of my mother.
I think of my father.
I think of the girls, my neighbors, my sisters.
I think of the cat on the sill
That waits for my bodice strings.
I think of God and His Mercy.
I think of the landlord.
I take his hand.