|Jul/Aug 2002 • Poetry • Special Feature|
The Muppets Take Manhattan
album is popping and fizzing,
"Why are there so many
songs about rainbows,"
and I wonder what a rainbow
would taste like.
Aunt Kerie's room is flying and frantic
as she bundles her 18 years into one
suitcase, 3 boxes, and a duffel bag.
I am safe in the center, on her bed
that has one more night left. She stops,
her sweater-colored hair skidding
all over her face, notices my empty Miss
Piggy Pez dispenser, tosses me a new
foil-wrapped line of grape tablets.
I remember that day at the beach
when Aunt Kerie had brought her
boyfriend and he had smuggled Dos
Equis in with the towels and peanut-
butter-and jellies. I had paddled out past
the other kids until I spied Aunt Kerie
and what's-his-name, held together by
their arms that were sleek and slippery
as sharks, and their lips
that were darting like those fish
that nibble and dash away.
Maybe a rainbow tastes
like beer and lake-water,
and kissing a boy
so hard that it bruises the air.
I remember that day a year ago, in 3rd,
on the school-sidewalk, in that nothing-
space between the bell and home,
waiting for my dad to remember to pick
me up. I had clutched my unicorn-ed
cardboard box when I realized anything
could be packed inside—not just river-
blue pencils and gnaw-mark pen caps—
that maybe it could be a time capsule,
or a tape-recorder; or maybe
the box was more like a mind.
Aunt Kerie's room is draining, dragging
itself in search of every lost thing. My
eyes are microscopes, examining,
putting sharp picture-frame edges
on everything so I will never forget,
moving things around in my pencil-box-
brain so there's space and time for this,
the day before Aunt Kerie leaves
for New York, and for good.
Maybe a rainbow tastes
like a tomb for a dead cloud,
so hard that it stains the sky.
How it should have happened =
Front porch: outdoor furniture
fashions a green plastic filter,
dispenses my words as fumes
so all you hear is this night:
the county fair hiccupping to a halt,
the loud wink of cars in exodus,
the late kids creaking past
in their summer-shattered shoes.
I sit, my legs folded
beneath me like damp sticks
to keep me from running.
I am like a crane who has decided
to let her windpipe wither
and her still-shelled children
die beneath her.
I drink Dos Equis and it strangles
my throat Spanish, so only la luna
could have translated my voice
to you. But your body has never heard her;
even your womb wouldn't obey,
wouldn't budge until you were sixteen
and it cracked open, too late,
like an egg gone bad.
I wait until the humid hand of this night
has kneaded you with salt,
until your skin reflects the lights of street
and star. Your lips part like reluctant knees
and your confession, your plea, hurdles
out like a million filthy suns, and
you are forgiven, Laura—I forgive you.
How it actually happened =
Patio: nothing between us
but the vibration of my words
on air, the arrangement
of this music all wrong—
it composes an album that
should be snapped in half and burned,
or entombed in this backyard
like a screaming Ouija board.
I sit on my rusty-boned picnic
table, and you are near enough
for me to catch each tear in my teeth,
if I wanted. But what I want is to slit
our twelve years at the throat, watch
this night's razor carve us into shapes
that couldn't possibly fit back together.
I drink Blatz and it belches
wan yellow light onto my hands,
and this is the only shine
besides the moon, but tonight she
is ashamed of her skin, her voice—
they both warble through the night
erratically, striking places
with the force of a slap.
I wait until this night has finished
wrestling with my mouth, until I've lined
every star with your sins. Your lips
are quiet-cursed—you always blame
that on your gypsy heart.
I know that heart, Laura; I saw it stolen
like a child from the cradle of my chest.