- Imperatives, and: Circling
Once we found a Great White toothas long as my son's thumb.Once we dragged a jellyfishto shore and watched it throbbinglike a huge, transparent heart.Once we stayed in pajamasfor five days, waiting out the snow.Last week, a brown-headed cowbird,dead beside our door.Three days later I dumpedthe corpse behind the shed.
Chlorine smell catches inhis shaggy hair. Yesterday's stalecoffee, the slant of rainthat wets my windowsill, the shoeshe outgrew months ago, butI refuse to throw away.
Braced teeth and tangleof pre-teen limbs vampfor the camera, caughtsquinting or mid-laugh or barelythere, just a halo of red hair hoveringin the back or a crown ofgreen goggles bobbing: my son,unsmiling; the family cursemight skip him, this inward-turning darkness. [End Page 198]
My father took me earlyto feed the science teacher'sbrown anoles who ate live mealworms,wriggling golden larvaepacked in wheat bran,the smell of which still makes me gag.Once I found a lizardcorpse, part cannibalized, partdecayed. Two days later,wisps of skeleton, filigree of bone.
Brown-headed cowbirds layeggs in others' nests, abandoningtheir young. Brown anoles eattheir molted skin. Sometimesthey eat their tails. Sometimesthey eat their young. My skinis as thin as testa—seed coatbeneath a cracked shell. [End Page 199]
Through lattice underthe porch of a condemned
house, a feral cat sizesme up. A barstool's metal foot
scrapes the tacky floor,expletive cracking the din.
Every street corner blinksdelicious permission:
neon invitations, pillow-talk promises, smiling
strangers in drugstorepicture frames. I circle
the block, waiting for a sign:rock star parking outside
Club Charles or a green lightto usher me home?
Each day thirst churnsinside me, my fulcrum
teetering. Each day victoryfeels more like delay. [End Page 200]
ELIZABETH HAZEN is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Her first book, Chaos Theories, was published in 2016. Her second book, Girls Like Us, is out now. She lives in Baltimore.