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

Christmas hollyhock,

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.




Hard Labor


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

Jubilant bark

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

Ambivalently plucked

From unremarkable days,

Bar napkin notes in lipstick.

I would cup my hands

Around your immovable stones,

Barbed-wire fences,

Labyrinths of fire,

To satisfy your most fragile need,

Broken childhood wish,

Your darkest desire.

Worshipping you would be

Back-breaking work,

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

Of Bellatrix,

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,

Mardi Gras,

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

unlit candles.

There was a star named after you.

"Unwrap the shirt,

but throw away the card."

I said.

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,

Somewhere beyond

Any cotton candy pink sunset,

Past sparkling black lava beaches.

Your merciless beauty,

Pale blue eyes that strip

Military defenses,

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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