Once, on acid, your best guy friend looked so deeply into your opened pupils what he said pin-stuck in you--
that prediction-predilection you keep living out, his long-ago psychedelic hypnosis,
he opened you up like a study bible inscribed his proverb so deeply in your Chaka-khan charka you became a living Psalter worthy of R & B--
twenty years later it’s all you can do to keep your soft summer dresses on when you think of him.
Maybe love is a vessel for a prophecy you can’t put down for fear of breaking.
One June evening, you may remember the sweet smell of clover in the field
where you lay, while he straddled you laughing, holding down your arms-- not with meanness.
Smelling of his garage band, blue aluminum and grass, he sang the zigzag brain static of constant lovemaking into your body’s Victor Victrola
imprinting your mnemonic for good sex-- his old space at your lookout point
where whatever it was he said is now the water from which your whole impossible life flows.
REGARDING MY AUTOPSY
When they pronounced me DOA, the glass doors
of the hospital opened for me like jaws,
as they rolled me to the morgue. I hovered
above the gurney sweet as marijuana smoke.
It was so black, the white sheet flimsy as a veil, slipping off me.
The spirit’s permanent stutter, trying to get the unsaid out into the reddening sky.
The Velcro pull of soul from body--
the diving into darkness so chill it froze each query
at its birth-- I thought where is my car? Where are my children?
The question was--
something I had to remember.
The glass doors swishing open and shut like a thresher.
I kept forgetting--
how did I die?
On the clipboard. Other notes.
Item: One wallet, black, one hundred and twenty two dollars
Item: A gold wedding band, inscription 9/7/83
Item: one set of keys
Item: one roll of peppermint lifesavers, unopened
Item: Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, left side bent
Items: a beige v-neck sweater (ripped in front), tan khakis, blue button-down shirt (buttons missing), burgundy oxford shoes, brown leather belt
Above the Medical Examiner’s table, a sign in Latin--
Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae--
This is the place where Death rejoices to teach those who live.
Terrible angels dream-hover taking notes:
Desires 420 grams, ambitions 301 grams.
State of Grace: Limbo.
But the examiner’s scalpel is sharper
than the divinest quill.
Can you hear me?
Yes. I can hear you.
Tell me what the report says.
It says: Your heart weighs 290 grams. It says: congestive heart failure.
Are you sure? I see you in a summer field, Vermont a long time ago.
Yes, I’m sure. Your heart was unsure.
I can smell the top of your infant head.
Maybe you’re death-dreaming.
I think you were my daughter. Didn’t teach you how to drive?
That’s what I’m saying.
Then I owe you an apology.
I’ m not sorry for my life…but I’m sorry for something,
The other corpses in the morgue still on their stretchers,
mock me with their decorous stillness, their hospital tubes and plastics,
the whites of their eyes have turned hen’s egg brown.
The terrible angels wield their long tweezers,
Strange extractors. I am weary--
the sensation I once had--
unable to stop, the toboggan threshing me down the hill--
please, if you are my daughter, conjure that which was once me
putting a soft blanket over you at midnight.
I ‘ve left you nothing but narrative to appease your afflictions--
CONDOLENCE IN CEMENT
Make your partings complete. Don’t roll them over and over
like a worry stone, until your hands are dry and cut, your mind wave-worn as a cliff hit by incoming tides.
What’s goodbye but a prayer for releasing what has passed, as flowers send pollen into the wind?
Let your goodbyes be direct and clean as a master’s sketch, brush strokes that finally get the flower’s
essence—art so true even we will believe those marks on paper bloomed a flower.
Let it all be complete, don’t try to reverse what’s been undone
with your thought’s bulldozer. Make way – even the future can’t retrieve what’s left behind,
the sealing cement poured in the gap: More adamant than stone.
This reckless daughter kept using I statements You were turning off
the auditorium lights were really headlights shattering sound of the switch brake ignition ditch
The stage was an abandoned car wreck The scene stuttering what happened?
Sirens wailed the cops’ arrival—I was using I statements to call 911, but they merely inquired about stage direction, location, character motivation.
They advised all ghosts exit the ramp or the trick door stage right
But the ghosts were under union contract stagehands delivering scripts to the unconscious the way drama always works---
you’re unaware of something you know, but walk toward it
because secrets are symmetrical, yellowheadlights wintershatter hysterical daffodils waving early spring ActOneTwoThree come and gone like lust, there must be
a de-briefing where you try talking me down from the stage as if you talked another kind of actress from a ledge, feeling of falling out that window
until the waking older men, legs in aisle round heads moons light sleep someone should Supreme Court scream Fire in this theater they never do. I had to live the truth even if it ruined the play Still that one non-metaphoric light on you. Spotlight searchlight coplight foresight it is truth
or some version of avoiding it, compelled like a sex-addict-badass-poet-pothead bad childhood car-wrecked dead businessman I kept using I statements
you doing what didn’t work over and over as if
welding a car from the staged smashup headlights sirens moons balconies I dropped to my knees, but no audience heard—only the sleeping men and my soliloquy of me passing like roadside trees Cherryblossomsnow bridge down road out oil slick
For our acting technique we fooled ourselves, asking the same things those ghosts had, ghosts that looked like us.
under the grave of the symphony pit, invisible music to which we danced to
made-up, costumed, I entered the secret with a key, banged on it with authority-- as if we weren’t invisible
a dialogue tag for a dog tag you tried to put on the directional signals the emergency light on/off/on/off
You said: Come on say it already, before you hemorrhage at the scene
-- Elizabeth A. I. Powell is the author of The Republic of Self a New Issue First Book Prize winner, selected by C.K. Williams. Her second book Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter:Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances won the Robert Dana Prize in poetry, chosen by Maureen Seaton, and will be published by Anhinga Press in 2016. Her work has appeared in the Pushcart Prize Anthology 2013, as well as Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Black Warrior Review, Ecotone, Harvard Review, Handsome, Hobart, Indiana Review, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Slope, Sugarhouse Review, Ploughshares, Post Road, and elsewhere. She is Editor of Green Mountains Review, and Associate Professor of Writing and Literature at Johnson State College. She also serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing and Publishing.