A woman alone in the boat of a man.
A woman a moan in the throat of a man.
Brief stone afloat in the moat of a man.
Secret sewn into the coat of a man. Note
a man, how he struts down the road of a girl.
How his rough voice cuts the ode of a girl.
What’s she owed? Not the world he’s made
of her fear. Not the shade of him here where
she’s paid with her tears. End the game. So
she thinks, as she drinks one more beer.
End the game! Yes, but think – who will pay
for the child? Make a way for the child?
How she prays for that child! So wild.
The dirt on her knees is a cry for a life
where to live will mean more than to die.
Goodbye is the bone in the throat of her now,
a huge stone sinking the boat of her now,
while she stands in the bow, child in hand,
singing the last mournful note of her now.
What things half-buried in the dirt of this yard: a hard
candy, a used bandaid, the black half-marble of a doll’s
eye. Like something caged staring back at something
free. Like the rest of the doll is down there watching
with envy any face that’s up here looking down. Dark
ground, dark lashes like a little girl’s – something here
lies that doesn’t love the world. Something that glares
up at the lifelong march of safety shoes, the trudge to
work and back again, and that sees liberty. Its desire
only for the room to pace. What things half-buried in
the air of this town, desperate faces mooning upward
in the night. Like something caged staring back at
something free. A hard woman, a used man, the new
half-smile of a boy newly in love. Thick summer air
that warms what it chokes, and chokes what it warms.
The locked cage of a lover’s arms. And above us, the
cool prison of the Lord’s regard. What to call this –
the hatred of the earth-bound for the sky? Us socketed
to earth like a sightless eye. What to call the expression
on the face above? When it is so vast, and we so small?
Disinterest and love look the same in the eyes of a doll.
RACHEL CUSTER‘s first full-length collection, The Temple She Became, is available from Five Oaks Press. Other work has previously been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, B O D Y, [PANK], and DIALOGIST, among others. She is a 2019 NEA Fellowship recipient.
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