Four summer months of third-shift factory eyes,
the half-assed hurdler's scabbed-up palms and knees,
the Levi's/flannel uniform, the prize
collection of Star Wars toys, the Pekingnese
next door you shaved for fun, the baritone
vibrato you'd start belting out to shut
me up mid-fight, the slice I gave your cheekbone
the night you wrestled me and won. We cut
the Mustang loose on backroads liquid black,
the windows down, your hand on mine on the stick,
and even though the rearview mirror's cracked,
the fragments give a wicked view—the quick
blood rush, the touch, the bliss of skin on skin,
the thick dark hours of swollen heat, the thin.
THE DOLLAR DANCE
Once, you crashed a former flame's reception
and shelled out fifty bucks, to his wife's horror,
to make him squirm to Styx. For richer or poorer,
you rocked that party with your indiscretion
and found yourself blacklisted by every bride
in town as "bitch," "slut," "thug in three-inch heels"—
the stuff of beauty parlor legends. Appeals
made by your mother to apologize
(Sue Grady's son will never call you now!)
were met with looks as cold as frozen cake.
Five years and one fiancé later, you hope
you've been forgiven—could the crowd allow
you one dance for cash to Mr. Big's "Just Take
My Heart"? Mom shakes her head and says, Elope.
VIEW OF PETERSBURG FROM BELL'S HILL STRIP MINE, PIKE COUNTY, INDIANA
They've razed the Gospel Center where I crossed
my heart in water, died and rose again.
There's been no county fair, no pageant queen
to take my crown and ride down all five blocks
of Main Street on the Fourth in someone else's
'67 Mustang, hot pink Dollar
General lipstick and a sequined dress
too short and rented out of town. The mines
are all shut down, land butchered like a cow.
At dusk, a thick mist settles on Bell's Hill
and summer sings "Oh Land of Rest, for Thee
I Sigh" on sluggish, D-flat minor winds.
This is where we'll bury it. River down,
crops withered, last good beef from winter eaten,
we'll lay one building at a time across
the bottom, shine empty storefront glass, patch
the courthouse brick and pray for forty days
of flooding rains until its streetlights glow
beneath the water like a second-rate
Atlantis, like the stars in dead reflection
off my eyes. You'll come like a witness then,
when the rest have left, and park top-down with your love
for fireworks bursting from some distant place.
I'll be here, whispering its tales to boys
from out of state who'll put their hands where my heart
should be beneath my first-place sash, my skin
still coal-ash soft, legs tan and warm around them,
still strong enough to swim this pit and live.
Started as a list poem containing the weirdest and most annoying traits of my ex-boyfriends. Great fun to write.
on "The Dollar Dance":
It's from a sequence of sonnets about wedding-moments-gone-bad. The sequence started one summer as a way to deal with blowing my hard-earned cash on blenders for too many people I barely knew.
on "View of Petersburg":
I'm from southern Indiana, and my home county's been pock-marked by coal mining blasts. Bell's Hill is where my grandfather lived before the mines bought him out.