this is who I was the eye of a Passover joke become a convert for $400 they loved me I wrote some Broadway shows I might as well have pretended I didn’t want it this is who I was the docent at the Met said Matisse had no content she wanted the painting to reach out and shake hands with me I decided not to try heroin it was easy to let time pass between episodes I won’t apologize I made it clear from the beginning what I needed how it would be nothing helped my conviction that I was hopeless as Baudelaire beseeching the Muse for secrets a northern hillbilly town in evening imagine getting lost on the streets recognized as crazy by my eyes tattered hat threadbare clothes slam all the prisoners were jazz musicians poets or hangers-on precious in tight jeans and cashmere a special hip jargon and the right to leave whenever they wanted all that was required was confession and a willingness to break with my bad behavior like a leg healing I had another life peeling potatoes in an Army kitchen talking without end about drugs cases of nutmeg a lot of barking cod liver oil backed by the science of motherhood it tasted bad so it had to be good we lacked first families used flags to cover tables tracked salmon under ice rules ideas everything suspended in the presence of genius if I could find it I’d tell you over a cup of coffee can we met later okay sure for three minutes all this fuss sycophantic conspiracy that afternoon I played an especially hot game of ringolevio in celebration of returning and there before me at dinner I received the award a beautiful brimming bowl of borscht with a dollop of sour cream atop a boiled fuzzy potato I arrived at feeding time considered myself lucky to be able to watch them tear apart giant chunks of meat the reasons for adoration are not appreciated by the adored
frozen then in green the evergreen squalid anus of the subway slush soaked shivered plashed splashed deep roaring squalls ROARRRRRRRRRRRING squalls the shift the dip the curtsy my black shirt mended with red embroidery thread my throat’s kabbalah bracelet forgotten until I unpacked not knowing the wrath of that red the thank you card words that led in and out St. Patrick’s doors held up with rebar slippery marble ticking the roof of my mouth ticking my teeth my cheeks my pink except for the tired which was exceptional I lit $2.00 candles for myself my son I took confession I was contrite I ate on the street like a commoner go ahead tell me how to see how to slash my eyes open my blue blue eyes that burn with Mozart’s own hand tell me a better way for I am class-less in a city of clowns and madmen taken up in the trees just like that shamed whose face never broke for a smile the art I made at school not a book to be found no interest in sharing my private preoccupations to the public art is not about that I meant what I said every word I wrote my theme song the fear of a nail in my shoe I knew Napoleon’s crossing took place in the last days of winter nerve wracking and anxious I could not imagine stepping into a frozen river with thoughts of death and discomfort as an occasion for heroics women misinterpreting orders the food disappeared horses slipped slid reared in mud running by the time I reached Boston I had begun to come apart at my carefully sewn seams lost my purse twice even though it was in my hand dehydrated running the halls running the moving sidewalk running frantic with threats of snow and more snow stopped airplanes flicker boards with groups of people gathered around at that time the river was empty I was so thirsty I had to buy a pretzel to get a cup of panic water in other words a way of working out my life in sickness I constantly paid debts of guilt and unhappiness in other words for making things work out to be self-damaging all week my bum knee ached I didn’t know why perhaps an offer would come from Bloomingdale’s for me to work at a specialty counter demonstrating quill pens with three different colors always something exciting and anxious about the mail one look eliminated a thousand words February made my head burn sent postcards the little darlings who visited me in the dark a warm bed with a short Russian masturbating into the Steppes is it push or pull is it push or pull I needed to visit the great cats at the zoo all of the Animal Gods in attendance that neo-Greek park their rippling bodies dancing from one end to the other my body is still at Sacred Heart probably DOA in my family there is no shame to do anything for money
let’s go to the museum let’s go to the museum [no] she asked WHAT DID YOU SEE THERE the horizontal Maillol the bronze backs of Matisse Roszak’s cast iron Brancusi’s steel sucked a great draught from a pipe bought socks sent my soiled underwear home by US mail fuck death I was breathing she asked WHAT DID YOU SEE THERE like a test how could I possibly describe such a thing standing stunned in my five year old shoes my moth bit sweater my tiny foot-dry pocket book brain tethered by alcohol whisky ice cream veal blood stacked in the freezer struck with the sheer tired that came from being told what to do I burned the pan sat in the wrong chair ate the dog’s food shoved the yellow wafers in my mouth hungry and invisible in a monstrous snow invisible in the country invisible in my white dress vomited to the east for the Upper Crust’s viewing pleasure fell fell fell crashed into ice as I rode the ship’s hold shivered with rats rocked without tenure or mercy trotted out as a freak a fire in the heart’s terrain fire under the dark blue shells fire in permanent disorder fire over the polished bones of animals fire inside the blind mole fire in the throats of diplomats fire never invited to leave fire in the stupid religions fire in psychosis fire ringed by guns fire like drones instructed by their Queen fire in the horns of goats fire in the monkey murderer toppling over and over forever down the pink staircase fire in Paul Bunyan fire flying over Montana’s wild Eden fire in gold pesetas fire in unwound clocks fire listening and conserving dreams alone in that incredible holy city
Rebecca Loudon is the author of Radish King and Cadaver Dogs. Her work forthcoming in Tammy. She is a professional musician and teaches violin lessons to children.