Wormwood

Lupercalia, Poetry

She has black dirt on her face.

The ruins of a garden plucked

for winter stain her hands.

She has scratched that greenery free

and bathed in the empty

soil, praying for next year’s harvest

with touches of bare arms and thighs.

She rubs the flesh of the earth,

places stones in her mouth

careful of her teeth

though she knows

this is ritual.

Her tongue rolls in the grit,

hips turn the ground like a spade.

She says, “I will starve myself for the gods

so I can grow poison in the spring.”

Photo Credits: wormwood, Prosperina (1870) Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Poverty

Lupercalia, Poetry

Poverty sits in the center

of her cage, claws scratch

and kneed

the barren concrete.

Her tail twitches pensively.

Her eyes are the moldy green

of a half starved cat

and her teeth are as crooked

as the banker’s. Feathers

rustle down her spine,

vibrant spears in the humid air in

like stray sparks of anti-matter.

She moves toward the bars and

like a wolf, lays her ears back

against her bald skull.

She does not growl.

She does not hiss.

She purrs with profound contentment.

It is the contentment of continual existence

in a cage. Or on a deserted beach.

Or with a grand audience. Or

meager laughter. With

a simple calculation she nods her head

in my direction and I want to eat her.

Little Girls

Fiction, Lupercalia

They carried the baby bird wrapped in a yellow, flowered handkerchief. Its eyes bulged behind their closed lids and its prickly down barely covered the stubs of its wings. The wrinkly peach flesh was damp with perspiration and plant juice. It choked and twitched feebly, beak broken open.

“We’re going to operate now,” said the little girl in the red corduroy dress. Her glossy, black shoes were scuffed and muddy and her little white tights had been ripped by the holly bush. There were no lights in the attic but the mother had given them three candles with the stipulation that Make Believe was not allowed to knock the candles over and burn the house down.

The two girls scooted past boxes and trash bags filled with grown up things and tiny baby things from times they could not remember. They were like bright fishes, easily distracted by strange colors and strange noises. They crawled on three child’s paws: two dirty knees apiece, one dirty hand apiece, tipped with chewed nails.

“On the operating table,” said the little girl in the red dress. She snatched the handkerchief from her companion and slammed it down on one of the boxes.

“Scalpel!” she cried.

Her companion picked up the handkerchief and lifted it to her nose. There was something there that reminded her of earthworms and pill bugs, like the juice that dripped from the knife to the kitchen floor, like the scolding she received when she stayed out in the sandbox past lunchtime. She reached into the pocked of her blue shorts and held out a sprig of holly.

Eve

Lupercalia, Poetry

She is an open jewelry box

singing, a wasp flutter

harmonizes with sibilance

against the garishness

of that tree’s

TOUCH ME AND DIE!

One eye is the fractured blue of an

abalone shell, the other cormorant

shine stopped dead,

wings helpless against her temple.

The alabaster lid of her skin

splits like a poached egg,

bold entrails drip gracefully and

she takes the apple,

doesn’t care a corpse cannot eat.

Photo Source: Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art, Memphis TN

Mermaid’s Songbook

Lupercalia, Poetry

1. A Boat Alone*

phosphorous moon

over

a boat

alone

singing

of eyes and

stars

dancing with

the horizon

the horizon

unravels

dancing with

stars,

singing of

eyes like

phosphorous moons

over a

boat alone

Prayer for Us Daughters

Lupercalia, Poetry

Begin when our mothers call us daughters the devil. Lone shadows skitter across the wall between bookcases and all the things that should have been thrown out, including you; the detritus of corners and cobwebs, boxes piled high with canned food, laundry, years of newspapers and unpaid bills.

Begin when our mothers call us daughters the devil as you evade sharp corners and the door that opens and closes; the border between madness and our small, fractured sanctuaries. Belong to the small bed, the belongings scattered around the small bed, the junk we will denounce when we want to grow up like desperate things, when we say we will never be like our mothers.

Begin when every gift, every meal, every scrap of clothing exists in their individual moments as the opposite of a slap in the face. Take the gifts with a smile and the moment her back is turned, run like hell. Answer the phone with an offering of innocence, eyes down. Maybe she won’t bite. Sleep as if nothing is wrong, sleep as if you are in the safest place in the world and then try to remember how to breathe.

Make believe, when our mothers call us daughters the devil, eventually rain will fall from the mouth of the full moon into the eyelets of our bedroom windows and fill the cloven prism.