By Rebecca Lu Kiernan


Combat Psychology


He reaches for my face

Through the blur of three martinis.

Is there anything not made of

Neon and shadow in this room?

He is a fighter pilot

With the kindest eyes

I have ever undressed for.

Nothing dark

(At my hands)

In this man

Who has killed and will kill again.

I know things I never imagined in my old life,

Escape velocity is 6.96 miles per second,

How to convert light years to miles,

Navigation by the stars.

My fingers in his wavy black hair,

He is awash with calm.

We whisper to each other over violin music

As the names of safe cities are called out

On the way to the target.

I know things about combat psychology

I wish I could forget.

The reluctancy of Western civilization

To stab with a knife,

Not because of an aversion to violence,

But because it is too personal,

And mimics the penetration of sex.

He kisses my forehead

Like Jesus will.

I take a mental picture, these pale green eyes,

The smile that sets the room ablaze,

The way he bows his head, as if in prayer,

Leaning down to catch every morsel of my words,

Closing his eyes through the

Razory wreckage of my language,

Sifting through to detect what's missing.

How long do I have till he knows?

He looks up to the stained glass sky light,

Letting go of one world,

Embracing the other.

He rakes my hair behind my ears,

Moved in on the trajectory of a faint whisper.

My chafed nipples stand erect

When I feel his breath on me,

Anticipating the long stretch

In his masterful lips.

I blink and we are in the marigold bed.

I deep-throat him out of spite,

Gently robbery of the old lover.

He turns me upside-down and backwards,

All spread out with the lights on,

Makes me come on his face.

Then, when he is inside me,

He says that thing I cannot hear

And asks what I will do while he is gone,

And what will I do if he doesn't return.

Answer is the same for each.

I'll be on a ship he's never seen

Diving into the otherworld I keep

In case the day erases,

In case the hands in my life

No longer have faces.

I close my eyes on the rhythm of his words.

I smell the clouds of the final day.

I call out the names of safe cities.

Mine is not one of them.

He rises from the wet tangle of sheets,

His long limbs casting slow motion shadows

Between an abandoned Earth

And the forgotten curse of moon,

Beyond the laughter of the stars.

He reaches for my hand.

We dance, perhaps for the last time.

The tick of the clock

Makes me want to scream.

There are things much worse than death

That could come between us,

And if I were to confess to loving him,

It would simply be

Because these ambivalences

And street-level slurs

Are to him, unfathomable.

I touch the magician's sleeve

Who taught me how to disappear.

I muzzle the wolf's mouth with a kiss.

I squeeze the gray fingers of the ghost who taught me

I am made of such beautiful light

That I can pass through anything,

Even, perhaps this night.




 Rummy Park, 15


They smell like rare raven orchids,

A black sand volcano beach.

They zig-zag like the bone collector spider

Of Costa Rican caves,

Ink-faced, jewel-backed, suction-footed.

They eat crumbled crusts of questions

Like emaciated crows

Down from the ice-crippled tree.

They follow me

Like a militant swarm of bees.

I will never

Surrender them to the authorities,

Dissect them to learn their biology,

Attempt to remedy them with light.

Some mortician will have to pry them

From my clenched fists,

The shadows your body made

On my ghost-white flesh

The day I knelt beside you

And confessed the sins of winter.



Rummy Park, 19


Yours is the cathedral light

That dances through stained glass Jesuses,

The quiver of golden wings,

The eyes of the ivory frieze

Following me arch to buttress.

Yours is the silver note of the violin

Erasing the blue-black bruise of silence,

The lace white baby's breath

That buffers the violet spur.

Yours is the thunder

Cracking strident, stark,

Lifting the beaks of birds

Hungry in the park

Drowning out mortal words

That glitter in the dark.

Your hands are the baptismal of rain.

I stand naked, clean.

Yours is the cathedral light

I am forgiven in.




Rummy Park, 36

(There With You)


It's a pastel neon tourist town

With turbulent oceans of emerald cream,

Vanilla white, willow lined beaches,

Silver starlings singing

In heliotrope peppered coral coves,

Frilled lavender geckoes

With tiger faces

Dancing in the hyacinth breeze.

Come, sodium night,

Voices washed in milky starlight.

Sweep away the snowy window

With your hands.

My darling,

I am there with you.


Rummy Park 37,



I was unbreakable before that night,

A kiss so unexpected and so kind.

I was safe, angelically certain

In the secret sanctuary of my

Criminal mind.

The universe spinning,

Stars raining down.

The green sea was a new voice calling.

You could not swim.

You crossed your arms.

My darling, I kept falling

Into the pedestrian green sea,

Calm, a silence that never spoke to me.

Or, is it that I could not hear

Until your wings thrashed so unwishingly near?



Rummy Park, 38



You are an accidental angel

Caught in gold cathedral light,

Lily ringed holy candle glow

Painted in the silver sun glitter

On ocean waves,

Platinum sheet lightning

On unbreakable lakes.

You are magic,

Sawing my doubts in half

And halves again.

When you are

Inside me like this

Forgive me if I close my eyes

Against your luminous affection.


It worries me

To look at such a miracle

As lions watch

Behind serrated palm leaves

And crocodiles cruise

The billabong bottom

Puzzling to separate

The dreamer from the dream



Rummy Park, 40



I will camouflage myself

Inside the complexities of winter light

That plays against the sodium wind.

I'll make such a complication of my


Spreading rumors to throw you off,

Wearing Annie Hall hats

And Jackie O. sunglasses

And bulky Russian trench coats.

I'll wipe my fingerprints


Brandy glasses and coffee cups

And you will never find me

Unless you understand

The smartest place to keep a secret

Is in the opponent's hiding place

Beneath his sweaty hands.



Rummy Park, 43

(Spy Games)

I like your flesh

Wet beneath mine,

Pastel forest irises

Begging me not to be unkind,

Your hands pawing frantically

At something just out of reach.

I like your sentences in fragments,

Your language unintelligible.

I like your breath shallow and fast.

I like the dog-mindedness

Of your unconditional love

Whimpering scenarios that cannot last.

I like the way your eyes dance

When you call from the war

As if you are so smugly sure

I'll be aching for your fingers on my spine

Should your country be defeated by mine.


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