25 April 2005 | Vol. 5, No. 1
Workers in Love
I had three husbands, two of them ghosts.
The last hocked Orange Crush at a crash
in Clear Lake. Maria Elena Holly sported
black bobby sox and wept over a rib bone
interred at the Surf Ballroom. There remains
Ritchie Valens. Backcomb the widow's veil,
a scrim of downbeats and some Aqua Net.
Flat, everything flat. The lake with white
foam, the white wicker honeymoon suite,
the red lipstick worn into pink. We strolled
on the imported beach, our shoes a byproduct
of wreck. Woody might call love flotsam.
I call it next. I've hummed about falling—
rock sentimentalities, lullabies.
Love did not exist before we moved
into the observatory. Stars are remote
as bolted letters, volcanoes. Sometimes
Woody eyes me over his unhappy salad
and murmurs of the statistical probability.
We are like criminals searching for paperclips.
Who could know that Cosmos 1953 would pass
under Cassiopeia in a memorable configuration?
How else might one catch a sustained glint?
The night was clear, my eyes maladapted.
I had never seen Mir so bright. Written
like parting, coupling becomes a pyrrhic victory.
Note rock songs. Note our heavenly hosts.
Note marriage, a gift thrown in the fire.
The ancients heard love as a stardust orchestra.
Woody's done time in the moonluck bandshell,
sitting on his hands, playing the dark as comets,
red giants slow danced, fire to fire, burning everything.
To want is what bodies do, but we are ghosts.
The gods sing in a humming tongue, like cicadas.
He's been scrying sound, witching vibrato, reading
notes of atmosphere. The marriage was a rumor
he once heard. Will he look in the leaves?
Cicadas sound like us, who never wanted
to eat or sleep. A vertigo of lips. A swallowed verb.
A captive harmony. A song might leak out
when silence is the acoustic remedy. How could we
escape on foot a sound that chased us with wings?
The Deus Ex Machina Puppet Troupe
pulled into Clear Lake at half past noon. I waited
among faces bored as moons. Woody came,
stinking of pomegranate, heart-eating grin.
This is love like a bad joke, he cracked.
I'd let old Buddy make himself a bed in my ear.
His rent cost nothing, two dummy quarters
and a half-spent roll of gossamer. I tied Girl
Scout knots around his breath 100 mornings
as if poets were singers, songs blocks of ice.
The other wives tell me if I leave food out
at night it will bring the dead. I write him
a menu. I would feed him what he wanted,
the cunning measurements of heartbeats, stars.
Planks, rust, canvas—everything I knew
sailed on. Clichéd as a deathbed,
Woody ate in my lazy-boy with his feet
on the leatherette pedestal. I printed a careful
list: Ursa Major, John Keats, an Epiphone.
First mates, all of them. We layered latitude
over longitude but never ended up
anywhere. Woody, why didn't you warn me
dinner would be pale? The dining room
is ocean, the air seethes. Call me cynical, but its
the music that degenerates. I hold the compass
to your right ear and pray for a waltz.
How can one fuss about such gnat-sized lapses?
But dinner, just more tea-colored eggs.
Madame Armstrong asks if a fancy bathroom
is worth a hundredth of a ghost. Woody balances
the books at midnight, fluorescents on, menacing
margins. The cost-benefit? The plus-or-minus row?
Organisms struck by desire misprize it, find it hovers
overhead instead of sleep. Ophelia opens for love,
swallows silt. Here rosemary, here Hamlet's kiss,
here the girl takes the rapids in waders and petticoat.
Here the city with no desire, the life he is asked
to lead. Imagine at once a particle and its velocity.
Imagine your wife's tributaries, how they all spilled over
for you. Woody has no principle for uncertainty,
so Madame Armstrong reads his hand, spies Kill Creek.
"Woody, this line means your heart still beats."
About the author:
Anne Boyer's poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming at Typo, Diagram, Shampoo, The Denver Quarterly, Unpleasant Event Schedule, and other journals. She lives in Iowa.