She was a big, bottle blonde
kissing the backside of forty,
looking like Mansfield might
if she hadn't blown Biloxi in the rain;
cartoon tits packing Lana Turner sweaters,
checkerberry breath clinging to tacky lips
like the promise of something sweet.
Flashing teeth and thigh six nights
out of seven, she works counter
down at the Angelica Theatre on fifty-third,
selling zabars and popcorn in greasy sacks
to strangers sweating behind familiar features;
they count their change as they walk away.
She shares time and a three-room walk-up
with a dyke she met in Jersey city,
creole stripper half her age who calls her doll
and doesn't know that mama named her Gravis,
reminder of days grown heavy, nights gone hard;
the chance missed to die without scars.
She's never talked of how she split at fifteen,
another ant struggling from someone elses afterbirth,
never telling how it felt when the cord snapped
somewhere east of Idaho; the severed end
drags behind her, erasing the ways back.
She doesn't speak of lying belly-flat
on a sheet-draped table while a man she didn't know
inked his thoughts beneath her skin; he hung
a new moon off the base of her spine, indigo stain
posed like an unfinished question.
In her dreams, faceless people hide answers
under the impossible designs; they leave clues
in concatenate patterns behind her eyes.
Sometimes late at night,
she puts Holiday on the box, sips cold duck
from a tea glass and listens to a closed throat
croon about how things get lost, how turns go wrong.
She watches the girl sleep, her still-firm flesh
the color of peppered honey; and she wonders
will years stretch it slack, or will it ride off
into some sunset in a pink Electra, wind up
on a sheet-covered stretcher, face-up to the dead.
But mostly, she thinks of voices and young girls,
how they last while they last; everything is only until.
She pours herself a kill-shot, rubs absently
at the nag buried in the small of her back,
fingers moving in concentric circles;
their remembered rhythms shushing the tell-tale moon.