Pacific Grove, California
Ladies Sketch Club on the Beach, 1890
To order light, dear sister
to wield a vest pocket clock
and boss around the day
is not considered women’s work.
Yet, truly, I live on scrapes
of Prussian blue and Gamboge crimson
go through tubes and tubes
of bright lead white, the cruelest white
for foam and spray, an ocean
pinned down with my palette knife.
I’m under a raucous spell of light
and the sea swelling in me
the dried colors caked
under my fingernails, all the proof
I need. Let my smocks, neglected
yellow and gray, I don’t care
only let me wait out
for the golden hour
see how it polishes even a crude thing
like my sweat to a flushed glamour.
It’s not order, cleanliness
not our father’s god I serve.
Behold my sin, like beach tar
whiskered blackly, in sand and burnt umber.
2nd place, Beyond Baroque Second Annual Poetry Contest
No breeze sister dear
scrape one cake lye soap
into boiling water – turn my head
smoke drifts dust – what a desert
won’t draw out of a body
once believed I’d see mama again
sort into piles – colors – britches
rags – monthlies
insides still tender
whites soak in bucking tub – set with salt
pour boiling from a height
through wood ash
through grime – tar – blood
scrub scrub – knuckles smart
fingers thorned – til I can’t stand my own touch
for once let a stain just be
fetch fresh kettle of water – fresh
save the sweat dripping off my face
fresh got a mouth on me
fish out scalded whites – make do
in a pinch use a broomstick handle
rinse starch – bluing – pin sheets
out of sight hang rags
repeat after me child
make your bed in the morning
and the day starts
sorrow bleaches us
pour rinse water in flower beds
flowers know your worth
sing morning – sing weak from heat
the devil vanquished – an immaculate smock
Beside my self with
I’d killed off two, maybe three of my selves
stuffed them in the broom closet
why not the crawl space I wonder. Closets are the first places they look.
What it felt like to kill I don’t remember except
in the bathroom with the cracked skylight
the roaches when I turned on the lamp to pee, the ants on the one cup
I didn’t rinse before bed.
Only merely slightly against live and let live, slightly
On the lam, I’m invisible in mirrored Ray-Bans
when the noir version
where even the camera wields a scalpel
framed for something you didn’t do
lights up my smart phone like a conscience, see?
Run into the actress playing me. Try to avoid her.
End up complimenting extravagantly.
She’s so self-possessed. Knows about murders.
Her unruffled hippie chic, and underneath the floaty ruse—harsh as shit kicker boots.
Much better at this scene. More than one of me thinks, Honey, you can have the part.
Hole up in Manhattan. Try to blend in. Which who lives in this cold water flat?
Up a steep and very narrow staircase. Interior decorated in paisley squalor.
Didn’t Didi turn me on to this hide out?
I play shell-shocked, as happens in times like these
when words don’t—spit it out . . . work.
Plus I’ve never been good with faces.
When I was who, what did I didn’t do?
belong here, don’t I
keep coming back—I do. I do. Fuck. I do.
Eventually one feels assaulted by disguise.
(Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)