Jepatio Street, Three
(No Grey Dog)
By Rebecca Lu Kiernan
I take the long way to avoid Jepatio Street
Where we had the terrible accident with our grey dog
That April she crashed through the window
And went flying, bloody and mangled
In slow motion.
I can't recall any words between us.
There must have been something, don't you agree?
We pulled the car over at A.J.'s Restaurant
And ran to our dying love.
We should have put her to sleep, my friend,
Had we any dignity.
God will punish us
For dragging her around,
Making waiters set plates for her,
Having Walter pour her a Guinness at McGuire's in Destin.
Her slow death pulled knots inside us.
It was just so hard to let go.
Sometimes I remember
Toting her severed leg around on ice,
That hopeful look in her cobalt irises
That she might live to love another week,
That we might snap our magic fingers
And erase that bump in the road.
Jepatio Street, Seven
In that world
That is the cobalt of your irises,
The temperature of your secret tears
In our old winterset bed,
The grey of the silence that blossomed between us
When you were careening Area 51
And I was on the sea with my old love,
Our street still stands,
Though our house has fallen away.
Every month is December,
The smell of bomber jacket leather,
Douglas fir trees dressed in
Crisp, cotton whiff of our sheets whipping down,
Our saliva and sweat mingled
Before the poison trick of April
Skipping through, all honeysuckle and tiger lily,
Razor in its fist
For a butter-fingered amputation,
Oh, the terrified angels
Still assigned to watch over us both.
Jepatio Street, Twenty-Seven
There are rumors that our grey dog died
But I like to think
He ran off to the circus
And prances these days
A crown of feathers
On his speckled head,
Dancing the merengue
With pink-tinted poodles,
Sailing the trapeze,
Leaping through rings of fire.
And just when Jepatio Street
Is nearly forgotten,
He thinks he sees us in the crowd.
His footfall gets all butter-fingered,
Glitter falls from his go-go boots
Where he turns cheetah-like on a dime
And looks to the faces of strangers
But can never find the laughter of home,
Or hands that felt just right on his face,
Or the soft voices
That made the night feel safe.
There are rumors that our grey dog has died,
But I don't believe it's true.
I believe he runs with the tigers
And is coming home soon.
Jepatio Street, Nine
I can't stand to see you churning like this.
I should walk out into the razor grey rain.
You'll never get to sleep with me here,
My hand turning your cheek into the candle light,
My spine propping up your heart.
No, really, I should go.
Where are my quiet, brown shoes
And crocodile raincoat?
I forget, you put our lives away in storage.
I can't leave naked like this.
This is the blade that unzips your life from mine.
Please accept my apology
For staying so long in your bed.
You were smiling so sweetly at me.
Honest to God,
For seven weeks there,
I forgot I was a ghost.
I would crawl over uncharted shipwrecks,
Frozen tundra, rip tides,
To touch you in the dance
Of bent cobalt willows
Tremulous in the grey December rain.
I would walk the fractures
Of thinly frozen lakes
To taste you
In the cotton candy pink light
Of the year's final sunset.
I would knock over your black licorice candles
To untie your bleeding hands
Beneath your trap door,
The door no one else can see,
Your camouflage being so professional,
Your strategy so well rehearsed,
Bearskin rug strewn haphazardly,
Love seat in bomber jacket leather
Catty-cornered to the fainting couch,
Basket bouquet of amaryllis and stargazer lilies
As if your life were lived there
In natural light through French lace curtains,
Screen door open to the orchestra
Of wind chimes, the grey dog's
As his whole world approaches
The stone lion guarded cobblestone walk.
Who else could see you?
Shivering in icy silence,
Wringing your clitoris-twirling hands,
Juggling your one-night-stands?
Thumbing through your threadbare black book
Of women whose slight-of-hands
Swept through you ghostlike
And never touched your face
Or brought your morning coffee,
Or handed you your heart
And put it back in place
When you kept it in a sterile jar
Along with sea shells
From unremarkable days,
Bar napkin notes in lipstick.
I would cup my hands
Around your immovable stones,
Labyrinths of fire,
To satisfy your most fragile need,
Broken childhood wish,
Your darkest desire.
Worshipping you would be
Sifting through charred sands
Of your black volcano beaches
For some artifact
Of inextinguishable love.
Jepatio Street, 15
In every city block,
In every country garden,
In circus tents and dark martini bars,
I look for your face
Turning again to me.
I look to the light
To the valleys of fractured moons,
For the next earth-crosser
To mercifully wipe out everything,
The restaurant where Andy Warhol
Did that sketch of us laughing,
My hand on your heart,
Your fingers in my hair.
At the art festival, jazz recital,
Even at the funeral,
I listen for your voice,
The way you say my name
Tremulous and full of prayer,
'The sing-song way you laugh
When you have been outdone
In a midnight game of Boggle.
I tell myself
We will never meet again
While remaining vigilant
In case you ride your Harley
Down our street
In unfamiliar clothes.
I look for your face.
It's always in my hands.
Jepatio Street 16
(Nightmare on J Street)
There was a flight suit in a duffle bag,
There was a cake in the kitchen
which we ate separately
after plucking out
There was a star named after you.
"Unwrap the shirt,
but throw away the card."
The coordinates were inside.
There was a tremor of revenge
And a breath of reconsideration.
There was a throat-clearing of compassion
And the stiff upper lip
Of steadfast decision.
There was an elegant, grey dog
Crashing her head through the windshield
When you slammed on your brakes
To say you didn't love me
There was a light at the end of the tunnel,
headlights of a runaway train.
There was an attempted electrocution,
the smell of burning flesh,
A slow crucifixion,
a prayer for death.
It was a freak show of a nightmare
of a circus.
There was drunken prostitution,
Psy ops and high level espionage
And in the slumber after our most idiotic crime,
a terrible confession.
There was a diary of events
Which I put in the hangman's hands.
I'll never forget, he pulled it to his chest,
Pushed it back to me,
Asked if I was sure.
As seven weeks of misery
Went up in razor grey smoke,
I let go of the most destructive element,
I reached for him
And said I made a mistake.
He said nothing was wrong with my love.
He said, "This man has been an imposter
on a professional level.
A few pieces of burning paper
Shot up like Mardi Gras confetti
And there was an unsettling pop.
I pressed my face
To his brown paisley shirt
And said I meant
seven years ago.
We stood in the doorway
Of wasted time
Not knowing whether to go
Back to the safety of the rich cherry woods,
The sea foam green house of lilac candles
And late night lemon chicken,
or into the new light
That starkly showed the damage
of all those years apart.
Jepatio Street, 20
(A Better Man)
Under some blanket the angels made,
Blue-black, the tint of a bruise,
I handled the remains of your crash site,
Put everything back together
In your unblinking darkness.
Beyond the icy rain of shark's eye grey,
I dirtied my hands on your engine.
You forgot the smell of the sky
So I gave you my hair,
Honeysuckle, cinnamon, lime.
I had to build a new man.
I even gave you my wings.
You could not see my smile,
You didn't know my name.
In the dismantling half-light
Of the eclipsing moon
Through claw marks in the curtains,
You couldn't feel the hands of angels
On your face.
You didn't have a face.
And that is why I came.
Jepatio Street, 21
Some place I have never photographed,
A bent cobalt willow
Shaking its remaining leaves
Into a violet lake,
Any cotton candy pink sunset,
Past sparkling black lava beaches.
Your merciless beauty,
Pale blue eyes that strip
Your slightest gesture
Sparking up the sodium moonrise,
The shrug of your shoulder
Behind dismantling laughter,
The vulnerable silence
Beneath your tentative smile.
My fingers trace your fading footprints
In the sand.
My other lives are ethered,
The clove/tangerine/brown sugar smell
Of your hands in our peach kitchen.
The long distance call after midnight,
The war is over,
You are coming home.
Your fragility bows my head.
My hands cannot be trusted
With your eggshell faith,
You are not entirely innocent
Tracing the cracks
Dreamily with your fingers,
Fondling fissures for the pattern
That closes your eyes,
The zig-zag break
That ends with the beginning.
I cannot bare to tell you
Nothing of our old life
Survived the storm,
So, I'll wait for your
Shark's eye grey Solara
On our old street,
Make our dinner over orangewood fire,
Raise pails of water from the cobblestone well,
Prepare a bed of starling feathers,
And wait for your light
To cast a tango of shadows
Against the coral cave wall
That has been my only home
Since you gazed unblinkingly
At some chessboard-patterned hotel carpet
And practiced saying
You have fallen out of love with me.
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