(Larkin, Tanya. My Scarlet Ways. Saturnalia Books, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-9833686-3-2. $14.)
a proletariat anthem that sweetens wells
cranks swings and lands kids on their feet.
I will faint and resurrect
like a circus tent at dawn
first in one town, then another.
I was this pink, sun-cradled snake.
I grew anarchic red.
So gone into things, resigned
to winds, charmed by use—
they strapped me to a prow for luck.
like the bell in the broken doll’s head
we loved to kick around.
It’s not so bad,
the sound of losing at love.
When we broke off the arms of the statue
she softly came alive.
like flutes and finding all the stops
There is precisely this much me
in the room. And I know precisely
because I am not that girl off to powder-
puff in the leaves thinking, love
come smother me faster.
How good it must feel to play through the girls
Goodbye, girls, I’ll see you
later in the place where your wings are trussed
I saw you there soaking in grass until grass
felt its sex and shouted, smite me like a nation
It is you, who washes death’s posable head
with soft licks. One day you will lick it entirely away
you suckhole of sincerity
I make a face at my neighbor and she makes a face back.
sniffing out sex-past or sex-future
there goes love’s hierarchy a pleasure only felt
by pleasure seekers
I cannot do it alone signing all your names to my letters
saying aren’t I brave dear so and so having feelings at all
These days I cannot get high enough
to vandalize the moon. I cannot get low
enough to eat earth and like it.
I care about style but it’s not everything.
It’s only anything insofar as I need it
to survive the sad pulp of late afternoon,
the sublime languors of a loved one as he or she
decides to have me or not.
o where is the cordless
the lost disc of postpunk seraphim rending the skies.
As if one foot in the door of the doom room.
As if Satan didn’t look so cute when defeated
his oversized wings curving over his head.
As if seasons didn’t matter but it’s your blankety blank life
Southern California or lack thereof.
As if Nebraska said give me a hill so I can jump.
As if for sooth we went pretending in feathered masks.
there was no
choice but to accept the foot into my chest, let it
kick in my ribs with its all-seeing heel
Happiness is unanimous the sun
bites down with its one blunt tooth
But I was quickest
to my quiver. My arrow was out.
I learn more from missing—when I miss.
Three whole seconds of true leaf affection
you missed because you were off with your blankey
your nose in the moss a finger in the lining.
The book I was reading bit me,
and I tried to bite it back, but left the dream
for another, jawing at the air.
HEAVEN AND HELL ARE REAL PLACES
Goody for them but I’ll keep walking
Inside it, horses will foam at the mouth. A row of archers
shall go down on one knee.
put the wreck back in recreation
a bloom itself that releases a fragrant steam, Pah Pah, into the sky
I throw out a shoulder thinking up music
just my God’s much farther than yours—
not a quick scramble up the light.
What are you, style? Besides something to fool
around with until the real thing comes along
a way to say, here I interject a little weather.
When I write fiction, I call you the distance
between me and my characters. In a poem, are you
the distance between me and myself? Is the goal
not to have you at all but to burn in my own flame
not just sit there by the fire singing songs and
warming my hands? That seems a little extreme
More likely, style, you’re an instinct for self-
preservation, so I don’t blame those who hide
there’s no love—no room to cast oneself out.
Here kissings lasts a country mile.
I run my silver down your parts.
You run your silver down mine.
The sun has a body to go with its head.
My little dark one, my little death,
she said, nothing exists until you lick it.
I said I wanted to be licked.
Look at the cypress, I said, it really
knows how to use its drama. Lick it,
she said. But it already exists, I said.
The sense of being haunted is bunk, divine bunk.
Today I strive but tomorrow I will go
at the pace of an heir. No need to hurry
through anything, even sadness or cold,
since time is money and tomorrow I shall have
plenty of that.
now I reject
anything I can have easily, which is quite a lot
now that I am rich. Just think of all the stuff!
every marked and
unmarked tree in this double silent old growth
forest belongs to me.
I leave the little beasts alone in their zoo of light
and turn to accept the admiration of the poor,
who nod and wonder at my enormous discipline,
which keeps them from killing and mounting me
on the walls of their otherwise tasteless, suburban homes.
We were spinning ourselves into a rare dessert,
a delicate sugar helmet, deliriously scribbled, snow
that would melt on contact with that other, intractable world.
French King Henry took to wearing a basket of little dogs
on a ribbon around his neck.
The English called it sprezzatura, the ability to think
an impossible lightness into the body and leap over
a mess of tombs thereby escaping your godbound
enemies or by the flourishes of a sword
cut the gown into a hundred bits the leaving the woman
that had been so tightly bandaged in tulle more or less
naked not even nicked by the sword.
the lucky beneficiary of another’s studied
effortlessness. You will carry her across death
because you have matched yourself
to nothingness and she has not.
The suitors are doing donuts in the parking lot.
Pig or god, I am learning how it’s done.
One sure way of getting behind
God’s back is by making a trumpet
of some devil’s minion’s ass in a poem
ground him down to a pilgrim
with her stare;
Wise she was from letting us drink ourselves
I never went home those days. I was home-free.
How far exactly is Cho-fu-Sa? Will I ever know
the distance one can travel away from the self to another
without breaking apart, until I have arrived, white-hot
and thirsty, looking to tie one on in a three-syllable town:
ripened by the miles I’ve walked
the mirror where I practiced how to kill
and spare a life all in one look