JSA Lowe

A needle of sapphires and thieves.

 

There must be a mistake, you don’t come visit

me, people don’t, I visit people, that’s how it works, who

live in more interesting cities, I choose cities what never

 

freeze, refuse to move where winter can’t keep palm trees,

and you are you, that young; so there is definitely an error

or escape. I should wash my hair more, count scabs. The

 

sores number as in exes or times I’ve scrambled to throw

the cat in the carrier—once blind psychotic, walking in her

dish, now bleeding out across the new lavender fleece

 

blanket, drooling urine so frightening arterial red that I

ran them, justified. The traffic lights. But might have done

anyway because the rule is: don’t scare passengers, but

 

when I go alone I barely notice, I drive like I don’t want

to live, I do and I don’t, you don’t know, it’s complicated.

The friend who dumps me thinks I’m alcoholic, the one

 

who picks me back up again after a year, I’m an old stone

or little object on her dresser, that postcard altar we all had

when we still sent them. Just a petite chose pour souvenir,

 

that’s fair, I don’t dare read his emails and what happened

to me was not all that bad. If I had screaming nightmares it

might make sense. Mediocre abuse means mediocre wounds,

 

so nothing that dramatic. The trapeze angel died of heart

disease at 45, this could be my last three months. See, I’m

actually good with that. I’ve known a lot of love, and given

 

some. They’ll forgive me in an urn. I was always the reason

I couldn’t have nice things and that includes, what, your gift:

tiny feather on a necklace that I continually lip, mouth at, run

 

over my teeth and tongue as chain and charm go bronze

from skin and saliva, it’s been a fabulous party, I’ve tried every

drink, now clutch at different dressmakers, urgent: thank

 

you, here, I’m done with this, will you please have it back now.

Pyrrhic

 

Now that there’s nothing left of you but a bankrupt casino, all the dinettes

and red leatherette chairs for sale, now you write things like This sounds like

a threat but I assure you is not, followed by a really scary one, somewhere

around the time you lavishly said You deserve to die in a fire, not going quite so

far as to name the one who might set it—

                                                   I stop here, chop lacinato kale and sweet potatoes.

In addition to my tiny sharp gold- bladed sewing scissors, you seem to have made

off with the vegetable scrubber too, so I use a Brillo pad. Does this count, am I

blaming you? Because you cannot endure any blame. It must be displaced.

 

Even my most verbal female friends never want to have meta-

conversations, whenever our closeness ruptures they wait a time, passing,

a reliquary, I acquiesce to a slow closing over, then we resume as if ignorable,

which is not a word, and I try to be cool about all of this, I do. I did. But my

girlfriends only break my heart, unlike what your mathematical countering

took:

           sometimes I’m allergic in spring, and when I suck the snot back

down my throat, salty across the soft palate, abruptly I feel afraid and dismayed,

why? it’s a flashback to semen, could that ever be for someone else a happy

memory, what things are happy:

                                                     sonicleaning and autoclaving surgical

packs, folding blue paper drapes, mopping kennels, scrubbing tissue clumps off

hemostats with a toothbrush dipped in chlorhex, these are satisfying, pleasantly

tiresome and when you’ve done them you can look at the thing and say, it is done,

I did that, bolt up a shelf with wall anchors, drill holes for new towel rods, so

 

now even when you cough ugly insinuations into my inbox (the reason you are

suicidal is that you know you are too worthless to live) and complain sarcastically

about my pyrrhic victory—but I don’t know what that means, pyrrhic because

you didn’t like it that I left? or that you don’t know where I moved?—

                                                                                                            now manage

 

for whole long days to forget about your baby rage, just sit on the concrete stoop

staring blankly out into the strange yard, kitty carefully investigates the broken canes

of old rose bushes—then at that second if there is anything much better than

 

eating unwashed blueberries out of the carton in dumb peace,

I have no idea what that could be.

Glitter & plaid.

 

         Throw over your man, I say, and come.

                       — Virginia Woolf

 

Three of them are named Katherine, like the year I got dumped twice

in the same parking lot (DeVargas Mall, Santa Fe, New Mexico), it strains

credulity, even when it happens to you part of you doesn’t quite believe it,

 

the theorist says the queer sixth sense and you have it even as a tiny girl, watch

Batman while not understanding the difference between kitsch and camp

but knowing what it means when they’re tied up writhing like that,

 

I don’t know if the married ones do know. I think they think it’d be

easy, like going to a new restaurant or trying a fun combination of skirt

and blouse so it’s up to me to be superheroic, save us from their

 

unboundaried cluelessness, when I handed her the box of mineral water

in the dark and accidentally backhanded her in the tit did she flinch, I

cringed over it for weeks, do all platonic friendships get watered down

 

next to the lurid potential my imagination freights, one lives in Estonia

and in Århus, one in Brisbane, one in Newcastle, one in Nebraska, you

can’t make this up, two are named Elizabeth. I can’t make up

 

that time when the one letter lost in the post was the hotel reservation

in the purple envelope, can’t make up that he used to call me every

time when his wife went out of town, wandering the house in boxers

 

eating plastic-wrapped cheese with sharp mustard for meals and crying,

can’t make up the ferocity that seizes you in the grim local minimum

of the night so roll facedown in bed and bite the sheets but laughing,

 

he thinks it’s facile, that my substituting constellations of beloveds is a

challenge for anyone trying to love me, thinks he knows what I haven’t

written: like I’d let fingerprints get all over three hundred pages of angel,

 

like it’s painless to admire her artless selfies (scoop between collarbone

and shoulder, curve of back, slope of neck, basin of attraction), to learn

names of cats and husbands, like it comes naturally to stand down, be

 

politic and distant instead of shriek beneath her window with lute

tuned to a unison drone, my teacher warned me, you’re from another

century, a different economy, you don’t think in terms of markets but like

 

a troubadour, as if pouring everything at her feet in a pool would make you more

valuable. But this is capitalism, when you flood the market it makes you worth

less. And I am. Is there a problem with that, no, no there isn’t, I’ve

 

drawn it down, swallowed hard. Sleep with an arm wrapped around

the hard belly of a guitar like an undergrad. You don’t get to give me education

is how she shut it down. I told stories to spinneret across space, sketch

 

an analogous weltanschauung but she informed me otherwise; I just

sound patronizing. She’s right. Hey. Listen. I’ve stopped everything.

Don’t cypher anymore. Said I was sorry, nodded tightly and agreed.

 

Careful to excise the bowerbird’s need, delete its gifts. Fold up

the sepia love-letter of misspelled Arabic that she read once, put that

shit away. I button my flannel to the throat. I smile with half my face.

JSA Lowe's poems have appeared most recently in Black Warrior Review, Chicago Review, DIAGRAM, Hobart, Salt Hill Journal, Third Coast, and Versal, as well as previously in AGNI, Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review, and Salamander. Her chapbook DOE was published by Particle Series Books, and the chapbook Cherry-emily is available from dancing girl press. She has a PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston, where she currently teaches. She lives on Galveston Island.

 

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