You can’t kick that high no more. That faceless man standing over me again. My cold sweat makes the bed a stone. He is judging me again, lording over me, reminding me of it all. I have had it with this shit. I head to our Little Blue Bitch, that humming steel of blue from Detroit. He is like a bad penny. The engine turns over and the sands act like my Midwestern snow under the proud rubber of Akron. We will get through this. The headlights see nothing, it’s all before us like that faceless penny-man, my nightmares worse these days. No more being trapped in the mirror as I look into the rearview, not realizing sunset is teasing again, showing me its colors like the trees about this time of year in that other Midwestern life so far from now. Then more orange gyrates ahead of me, almost like a dance. I would like to dance. Again. The Buick urges me to slow, I can’t argue with big blue steel. I have been trying to do just that. No dice, love. A smooth glittering smoothing in front of me like a mirage, the ones I run toward, desperate. They never get old. This orange dancing moment stops. Turns. More glitter. A woman. A face. Tears. Smeared lipstick. Tired eyes. Overworked just like mine. I fold across the velvety bucket seat that has worn out of will and velvet in spots. I guess I am not really folding. Not like paper does. The door opens, creaking. Her color will never fit in here. At least not in front, with me. I fold the seat down. Now that folds like paper. Even in the darkness away from the headlights, she glows. Get in. It’s okay. Her tailfeathers fold over the top of her head, canopying her like an eggshell. Lost showgirl? She nods in the frame of the rearview. The Little Blue Bitch sputters back to a life I haven’t seen her have in a long while. See, we all needed this.
To the Sagacious Sage Grouse*
One-day old age toddling. Mother grouse, keeping them under protection of the sage- brush. But to stray is essential. Must prove such a long survival: internal warming machinery. They sleep under her wings at night. They hatch. They run and hide. Mother creates a diversion: the old phony broken- wing routine, flopping. Almost caught. The chicks whistle plaintively. The cocks stay far from her. Mother. And then one is granted entry, clad in full nuptial plumage, gulping air. Inflating orange balloons of bare skin. A tasteful splash of color. Building-brooding for his pompous cakewalk. He takes a few steps forward. Orange inflated and bouncing, a drumming for 3 miles. In January the cocks practice privacy. It will soon be curtain time again.
* *a cento from Desert Magazine, 1970
Again I arrange the desert rocks I found on the windowsill over the kitchen sink.
They like to move. The little personalities they got.
And the wind is speaking again. Odd for the morning. Anhedonia’s
cigar sizzles as she lights it. She’s reading a newspaper from years ago.
That other life in that other place. The perfume of the newsprint and
my brunette protector’s smoke rings send dark messages. The air catches
me and those messages, carefully constructed for years, and I imagine
the velvety coat of our horse, her auburn I try to match, resting my head
on her, comparing. I wish I was velvet with the soul of the world in my hair.
Her eyes never judge me, but they see me. You see me good, girl. And all of it.
This does not scare me. I wash my hair in the sink and see some red melt
into the white porcelain. The sink is a heavy moment every time. I can’t shake that either.
Red rides the drain down into somewhere, and I wonder if those little ones who burrow
will glow in the sun today. If they wake.
Chiffon Arrangement for Faith Bacon, a burlesque performer who lost her fame and leapt to her death from her apartment window in 1956 in Chicago.
Sitting on a glass drum in Chicago, you are a nude perforation heading for tears: through your thighs, your head, pain beading your brain like a headdress after the moment of the crash. Falling through the glass drum, you see blood and hear your hearty lungs lunge. Nothing will be the same. I will need a nurse. I will lose my status: “Lady with the Fans.” Feathered movements made you “America’s Most Beautiful Dancer.” now you are limping in pain: What will I be? The pills don’t work for any of your pain: the cuts, the mind, the loss. The newspapers spoke of you, breaking you further: your moth eaten fan, your dance that lost its punch long ago. You try to fly, but not high enough, a peacock flying like a spiked rainbow. Your roommate stands holding your chiffon. You finally tore free.
Screwing With Cowboys
With you here, it’s hard to care much about burned-out lightbulbs and early mornings. I am so happy with you, Anhedonia, but that man still rolls around my head. His hands are kind and as white as chicken fat. His swaggering thoughts and his eyes are strong like masturbatory moonshine. I hold you from behind while you take me away on the back of a red-headed horse. You tell me you found a place that will cure me, where mud is a Xanexed wonder and kindness fills the veins of everything. You help me down into the mud and I pulse there and fall back into my limping mind. October is over, finally, but it peels into November with more shit luck. So I live through you, Anhedonia: I rotate through the tissues around your bones and skirt the walls of your veins. I learn there what a real woman is and this realness is why men hate us so. Outside a desert saloon, I watch the fringe hanging from your jacket. You are my sassy cowgirl, moving like the tailfeathers of an angelfish as you spit and dig your heels into the sand. Lethal and packing, we stand outside the swinging doors and laugh about the cliché. Many men are behind these doors. We will enter and they will insist they can save everything. All of it. Especially us. We will keep our life and keep them away, resuming our kinky adventures as the poor girls on the block with closed drapes and unmade beds.
-- Carrie McGath’s first collection of poems, Small Murders, was released in 2006 by New Issues Poetry and Prose. Since then, Carrie has self-published five limited-edition poetry chapbooks, including: Ward Eighty-One, The Chase, So Sorry to See You Go, Ohio Lonely, and Dollface. She is currently at work on her second full-length collection of poems, The Luck of Anhedonia. Her poems have appeared in literary journals including The Chariton Review, Hiram Poetry Review, and Barrow Street. Her poem, “Dear Anhedonia” won the AWP Intro Journals Project Award in 2019 and was published in The Tahoma Literary Review. Carrie is listed on VIDA’s ‘anti-list’ of Under-Acknowledged Women Writers where author, Monica Drake writes: “... McGath reimagines a world that opens to grand possibility while simultaneously remaining painfully claustrophobic, and therefore married to a new kind of truth.” In addition to being a poet, Carrie has worked as an art critic in Chicago since 2009 and has contributed to Chicago Art Magazine, Chicagoist, Third Coast Review, and Brut Force as a Midwest contributor covering Outsider Art. Carrie is a Doctoral Candidate in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she teaches writing.