- Spitshine, and: Semen
Ask about children.I’ll waver. There is the tyranny
of bedtime to consider.Sloshed milk & split chins.
Plastic tortoise figurinesthat bruise the arches. Children
ask for buttered noodles& cartoon marathons; they want
to be naked all the time.My grandmother who visits does not
hold with nudity. She believesone beer puts you on the road
to disaster. Take her ownaunt, who at 50 dyed
her hair black & made her eyesup until they shone
bright as bowling balls, drankso much when she played cards [End Page 135]
she’d shimmy out of her corset& flourish it around the table,
with its underarm sweat stains& whalebone still holding
the swell of her shape.Mornings, my teenaged
grandmother clearedcracked beer bottles &
overburdened ashtrays.To this day, she says
the smell puts her off.
It is a sober winterwith the streets bare in December,
the iced toboggan run that keepsmelting down to fall’s anemic bluegrass,
the neighbor kids playingin ever-browning piles of maple leaves.
Rakish, you walk sideways on the busted-upsidewalk, like something blown.
When you wear the boiled woolhat with the flipped brim, I think
about having children. Because, my dear,you’d make a great grandfather: [End Page 136]
your breasts pressed behindtwo-toned suitcoats, your love of lawns,
how you know your way around a bottle,& amp; never need a thing in return.
Silky, unambitious,slow to trace the moatof the ball jar’s base.Built from dispassionateblueprint, ribbonedlines of codeemulse then expelby means of pleasure’sscissor-kick. Kinetics,sentiment. The body’s chore
enraptured. But soon to fallfully liquid, like poorlywhipped egg white.To lose its regalbearing, fade to wan,vestigial, as if flungagainst wall or trouserleg, left to leaven.That smell in the alleybehind the house:suddenly unmistakable.Not some duff-dwellingvegetable, but musk & amp; sour [End Page 137] of what’s been shutin the body’s fevered damp.
Among many advantagesof women: no needfor rituals of catchment,disposal, quick cleanupin cases of faulty timing.Such undue mess, suchexcess catalyst. So
why this tendernessfor a slim spill clingingthe curve of a tipped jar?Alone, a little humiliated.Expected to spur a newgalaxy of skin & amp; bone.We’re wordless.
The syringe stretchesits dignified spine, drawscloser to its chosenunintended. Gift, we think.Carry on, not withoutastonishment. [End Page 138]
Emily Van Kley ’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best New Poets 2013, and has been awarded the Iowa Review Award, the Florida Review Editors’ Award, and, most recently, the Loraine Williams Award from the Georgia Review. She lives in Olympia, WA, with her partner.