Jan/Feb 2001  •   Poetry

Five Poems

by Tara Brever

Uneven Triplets

Those twins were marked
with magnets for eyes
and belly-buttons, with fire-
bushes for hair, with poison-
pretty striped snakes for tongues.

Those twins found their triple
in a cousin, with a stomach
shaped like a shooting range,
the bullseye big and flashy,
with teeth white enough to juggle.

Those twins were tiny
buckets; cousin collected
sugarcubes and septic tanks,
plunked them into these same pale
blue brain pans.

Those twins took their time in the lowest
dosage; they used the basement floor
as a planetary surface; cousin taught antelope
in order to talk to the wall-antlers;
they all grew in the dark as mushrooms do.

Those twins and their triple would layer
rummage-sale skirts over their weed-legs,
would wade like drunk or damaged royalty
through the sewer-creek, would suction the slime
into their bodies, would cease to be three.

Those twins were translucent to their cousin,
to no-one else; they made their first escape in a drama
of death; the cousin got A's so she wrote the red-
ink note. Those twins let their tongues unfurl,
their eyes tune out to snow like a television.

Those twins were a danger to the patterns:
of dinner table peace, of little girl nothingness,
of sickness easy and quick-fixed with ointments
and syrups. Those twins were dolls drawn
on the same paper, and their cousin held the scissors.


Angry Adam

fit him like a band-aid, or a band-name; it grew from his fourth
birthday and lingered like onion-peel, even after garbage day.

He was Applecheeks until someone took a bite; his uncle
swore him in, cigarette-burned a crucifix to his silent skin.

No-one knew about that, or the eucalyptus that the boy started to smoke;
no-one noticed when their Bibles vanished from guest-room pillows.

He was smitten with the smell of stolen Psalms, Proverbs, Solomon's Song;
he licked the words of the shorn whores but he didn't swill the sin.

No-one knew about the after-bar pool tables, or what he used them for;
no-one noticed when their mice were gone from traps, their rabbits from cages.

He was making a god out of rodent bone, leather binding, busted cues,
but they all fell short of the corner pocket, they all reeked of fire.



Girl has fear-hated:

the brutally
handsome but un-
weaned boyfriends,
their guitar strings
still wet. They
wrapped girl over
and over, like a great-
grandmother quilt
wired together
with old Sunday tea-
dresses and ginghams
that grazed long-
dead dirt-floors.

the barbs
that girl's mean
little sister wore
in her mouth
like a filthy retainer,
her words misting
guilt onto girl's cheeks
in bloody freckles.
They tattooed
to permanent
like age-spots,
or scars from
some cradle-disease.

But the worst:

the buttons,
everywhere, binding
anything with just a whisper
of thread. There is no name
for this fear that keeps at girl
like nausea, that makes
girl's friends giggle into wine
glasses, that snorted girl's
parents into building
her a medley of them-glass,
wood, plastic, two/four-
holed, rattle-screaming
inside a jelly-jar.

the blanks,
silences in these buttons
that wake girl at night,
that cannot be plugged
without a needle.
There is not enough
time to fill all these
cavities, these inky eyes
like those of sharks;
these spaces,
like those between the star
and the night,
that will always yawn.


Go Ahead

Sounds like a nice place.
Anything with deadbolt doors
and a picture window must be wonderful.

But, really, don't tell me about her.
I won't even ask if she's put her hands
all over the master bedroom.

But what is better about up north?
Yes, I'll come visit, but the frost will glue us
together, and my tires will skitter, whine, all the way home.

But shouldn't houses be made of planks,
plastic-coated? Or brick, made from the hard,
safe earth? Houses shouldn't be made of logs.

Think of what could squeeze in, when your gun
is out of reach. Think of winter, when your door will stick
like fudge, only not hot. And a fireplace? Think of the sparks.

But what does love mean?
To us it means that I am the other woman,
and I that I taste like maraschino, or Mardi Gras.

It's not a log cabin? Might as well be. You'll soon shape
into a log-become either a part of your own wall, roots clipped,
removed from forest, or a quick crackle in your own fire.


Your daddy

Your daddy is on his way
to Dead End Saloon, Friday night
and every other. There's
always a cough stuck
deep, a granddaughter
picture or two peeled from hair-
greasy wallet, a liquor-
red fever flushed, masking-
taped over his real skin.

Your daddy is split
peas, soup no-one eats,
shattered hems
of your baby's dress.
Lately only his oily-soft
bench seat knows his body,
only the mutts, those rat-eaters,
accept his hand-stamp
on their wasted backs.

Your daddy will be one of those
who live the longest, one of those
who forget to work their hearts
on purpose but keep pumping them
anyway. He'll be in that truck forever
before anyone but the barflies notice his
hole, like the small thump of a missing
molar-not quite a mouthful of blood
and nothing a round couldn't cure.