It was no place for a girl. You couldn’t use your words. Somebody exhaled a story involving shipwreck and a sandwich, no idea which came first, and certainly not the woman wearing a fetishist’s latest metallurgy. We were all waiting for “the crisis” to arrive. Sweating on it. Trying to catch it in our lungs. Making it into a fish, then netting it. Or maybe that was me. And maybe the captain was you.
Everything short of writing me a vocabulary list, tying a blindfold, walking around the room with a lit match, a game of identify the song I’m humming incorrectly, too small to be a lemon but too big for a lime, quick allusion to turn of the century (the sexy one), pathos regarding bookish tendencies or a history in dirty little towns, rudeness to the wait staff, a stolen soup spoon, naked beneath greasy overcoat.
Do not omit certain grandiose statements. Not delusions of grandeur; those are implicit. Where to begin? With “I am Jesus and you are my sister and my wife.” With intercepted calls that supposedly ended up on your rotary phone, as if by divine providence. If I could say one thing to the President it would be that you are a terrible girl and need punishing quick before you change into a lake I forgot you said.
Take two somewhat gorgeous strangers and put them in a gorge. Conjoin two lethargic wasters and sit them at the bar. Place one bear on the ridge and the other on her back with a fish. Give her a fix. You kept talking about when the boat come take you away, and at first I thought it was a song, and gave you credit for proficiency in Americana, but that, like everything else, was an artifact of a fraudulent bygone time.
Imagine being hospitalized on a boat. The infirmary the size of someone’s back. All you could hold was ropes and your own knees. Someone giving both of us tattoos. Things can be surprising and sore, but what matters is who is in control of the ship’s wheel, and who is bailing down below. Who dashes the brains of the violin on her way out the door. Who is left like a blood stain on a bale of burning straw.
Mary Biddinger’s newest poetry collection, A Sunny Place with Adequate Water, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in May 2014. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Denver Quarterly, Pleiades, and Sou’wester, among others. She teaches poetry writing and literature at the University of Akron, where she edits Barn Owl Reviewand the Akron Series in Poetry.