Two Poems by Diann Blakely

BOMB 71 Spring 2000
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On the Border

Half-hearted vegetarian, I rinse chicken parts for guests,
           Though I’ve grown squeamish
Since those childhood summers when I watched Delilah butcher hens,
           Absorbing stories
Of her native bayous, how she was taught to forecast love-woes
           By reading entrails,
To catch a husband by tying wishbones with wire. No wedding

For the Texas teenagers whose tale the radio updates:
           Its Spanish broadcast,
Which I tune into sometimes while cooking, missing whole phrases
           In the gravelly rush
Of fricatives, despite those high school classes decades ago.
           Was he more fluent,
The Brownsville Prep gringo, with his girl, a Chicana believed

Too unassimilated even for teen backtalk and dates?—
           Yet she’s testified
To sneaking motel weekends with him, lying to her madre,
           Who lighted candles
Each day, if I understand the reporter, thanked the Virgin
           For their new brick house,
So large none shared a bedroom. Maybe, like me, this eldest girl

Was careful, called her boyfriend late at night from a closet’s hush,
           The hangers swaying
With jeans and her first communion dress, wrapped and tied in plastic.
           Las degradadas,
They’d called those girls in the mother’s home town who let their dresses
           And family names
Be stained with dirt in exchange for kisses. The radio details

How the Texas boy was shot before school in his mom’s driveway,
           A garden hose coiled
On the concrete like the snake Delilah, one summer dawn, found
           On the dew-soaked porch,
The same summer I avoided her, stuporous with memories of
           A tongue’s propulsion
As I’d swayed backward in a boy’s grasp till my hair almost brushed

My soon dirt-stained jeans. Swayed like la madre when the Virgin spoke,
           Ordering death to him
Who’d made her daughter la degradada. Blood pooled on concrete
           And soaked through the sheets
When I spread my legs one night, and Delilah never warned me
           Just how much this hurt
Or just how quickly I’d flee that boy; yet part of me believes

That love exists to cross borders, slip into other bodies
           With the same sweet ease
That we slip into sun-warmed grass or a river’s muddy flow.
           Or stretched our hands toward—
The stars? dim candle-flickers? the wet warmth of impatient eyes?—
           And gasp as wire stings
And rips our flesh, wire saying Do Not Enter, saying Go Back.

 

Last Dance

Not swans or flowers, these tulle-shrouded furies gliding
      en pointe, their eyes blank in chignonned heads that tilt
            as each glances at the hand curved on her breast,

black-lipsticked mouths hardened as the eyes shift toward
      Myrthe, their merciless queen, who tells them yes,
            Albrecht too, though his clasped hands beg forgiveness,

love’s betrayers must be danced to death, leapt
      and spun till blood cools in his veins. That when tenderness
            ghost-flickers those hollows where their hearts once beat,

they must look at that cradled air and remember
      the babies denied them. Merciless, their black lips curl
            as Myrthe flings Albrecht to his first unearthly partner,

then piroutettes offstage as Giselle’s starring bad-ass.
      Acting ugly, said my family’s women when I squirmed
            at concert halls like this, itchy in lace skirts,

or tantrummed during yearly perms. Acting ugly,
      they’d say about these red-lipped girls in the bathroom
            at intermission, blowing smoke and admiring

each other’s baby doll dresses, worn with fishnets
      by the taller, whose peroxide-stricken curls droop
            to her shoulders. A fucking bore, she pronounces

the ballet, slumps regally against the tiled wall,
      a fucking A-1 bore. Their mothers bought the tickets,
            bargaining seats for Hole’s next concert, I hear too,

and through smoke glance at the black armband—Kurt Forever
      tied to the blond queen’s sleeve. We both saw his widow
            on TV, screaming to mourners in phrases mostly bleeped,

her darkly-painted mouth condemning the ugliest act
      she’d known—her husband’s hand caressing his own temple
            with a gun’s cold and blue-sheened barrel after years

of their ghost-dance with heroin; and how they wanted
      to fly higher than bodies lifted in roiling pits,
            than those guitars’ amped keening snarl: Kurt Forever

and never again—an asshole, a fucker formed
      by the lipsticked mouth before footage cut to stills
            of their child, eyes blank as the lamb’s propped beside her,

lips parted wide while her blond mother tried to hush
      that merciless birth-wail, that transcendent fury
            thumping loud and echoed in tiny blood-leaping veins.

Diann Blakely’s Farewell, My Lovelies is newly available from Story Line Press, and her third manuscript, Cities of Flesh and the Dead, recently won the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Prize for a work in progress. She currently serves as a poetry editor for Antiochs Review and works as a journalist in Nashville.

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Originally published in

BOMB 71, Spring 2000

Featuring interviews with Frank Stella, John Currin, Jim Crace, Frances Kiernan, Brian Boyd, Marsha Norman, and Arto Lindsay. 

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