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tearing the rag off the bush again
Five Poems Con Leche y Sangre by Merilyn Jackson PDF E-mail




Don't call me Jesus

I hiss at him.

If I work the miracle

call me by my name.

Gruffly, he calls my name -

the smoky report of a gun -

until our feet begin

to sink beneath the crust

of the sea.


I, who never doubted this kind of ending,

ready myself to swim.

He too is preparing -

taking in gladesful of air.

I smile.

I see there will be air enough

for both of us.

I scream.  I let myself scream

because now he is breathing for me.

He laughs, not minding the

extravagance of my Berber ululations.

Simply, he breathes in another gladeful.


We are going under.

So he tells me the story of

his earliest love.

Hot, hooligan love.


When I reach for his hand

he takes mine firmly.

If we go we'll go together.


I can see that he recognizes,

with a shock, that I am

the hooligan of his youth.

And soon, as the water

begins to flood our lungs,

he sees that I am

all the women who ever loved him.


So disturbing is this,

he lifts me above the waterline.

We are choking and gasping,

glistening with death,

but he displays me to the sunlight

roughly tearing back my hair,

crushing my jaw in his coarse fingers,

twisting my head,

forcing me to gaze into the sun.


Once my eyes have turned to amber coals

he peers deeply into the blaze.

Jesus, oh Jesus, his husky curse.


I push his head down

Deep, under the water.


My Moses.


He takes me to his mouth like a reed.

I am blind but I am breathing

for both of us.

Don't call me Jesus, I hiss.





Polska, he blurted, face full of marvel and mirth

At the irony of the land of my mother’s birth.


Polska, his deep slow grumbling

shook me to my feet

a tank across my terrain, rumbling

a love letter piercingly sweet

from the mouth of a Saturday Night Special.


He studied my face gazing back at him, proud.

Chin up, Girl, Don’t give this man any ground.


Polska, my mother always said,

“Never show a man your whole ass.”

What could that mean?

Never show a man your ass whole?

What could happen?


What cheek to turn?

What cleft to cover?

What cleavage to close?


Why the ass?

Why not the breasts?

Questions you dare not ask

Your mother, or her guests.


Oh, moja Matka, if only I knew

How to discern your advice.

Had you not been so cryptic

You might have spared

His five o’clock shadow

My Sssinnabar lipstick.


Why not just tell me what’d make him

click his heels Jawohl

bend his steely spine over mine

melt his thighs till he kneels

part his smile for my bite

offer his boyish neck

till he purrs with delight

at each lick and each peck

waving his banner, white

with such brave surrender

no General could ever tender.


Mama, you ironed my sheet

When we had no heat.

Now his smile warms me, quivering like soft whips,

little love flames flicking at my back.

But wait! He bridles, casting his smile in total eclipse.

Look Ma, he knows how to cover his ass

Better than I do. What class!


If I am so bold and so naughty

Perhaps he should take me over his knee

slap me until he leaves a tattoo

Of his palm, now so red and haughty.


In my perfume

He surrenders again

Oh what creatures

Are these men?        

Ist das a mann?


I was born with white paper

that his eyes sear blue words upon.


Polska, he murmurs

Voice gone hoarse and husky,

Eyes gone deep and dusky,

Ich kűsse Ihre Hand.





Six nights

snow paled the landscape

as they wandered toward its center,

she in her bridal gown,

he in silver marten.                 


Ermine, swagging from her shoulders,

cleft a trail behind them,

erasing their traces.


In the swirling night

their cheeky erubescence glowed.

At first light,

birds attacked.


He snatched two purple martins

from the cliffs of her cheekbones

and kissed the hot pepper stippling

the sheer flesh below.


"Maliny," he teased


"Raspberries?" she scorned,

"you stupid dreamer"


But she brushed clean his punctures

from the struggling birds

smothering them in her icy fleece.


They had no fire

so they lay their catch beside them

and built an altar.


They shaped its spires with many facets

which, at nightfall, caught flickers of moonlight

through her veil.


By day's break six spires

rose above the drifts.


Crows nested on the capstones



She mounted the altar

Beneath her feet

marbled vines twined

through their engraved names


The netting of her headdress whipped

into ribbons winding round the pinnacles


The crows caught them in their beaks

And, cushioning their nests -

immobilized her.


She spread her arms

and looked down to him for her freedom.


He loosened the pearls that clasped her wrists

and pulled her bodice laces 

through embroidered eyelets.


"Nasz bialy dom," he said.


"Our white home," she mocked,

"but it has no roof"


Her cape billowed  A sail  An escape


A shelter


With the beaks of their frozen martins

he fastened her cape to the capstones


The damask gown of countless ancestors

drifted to her ankles

as she stood captive and lustral.


He knelt, carving scoops of fresh snow

into gardenias

which he lay in a pyre

at her feet.


She arched her neck to better catch their scent


Her breasts glazed

Below her belly red-black curls crystallized.


His tongue brushed away these frosts

and, as if mining rare mineral

delved prayerful hands into her darkness.


The sleeves of her gown

beribboned his ankles

Before he freed himself,

her heels on the mouths of the sleeves

tethered him.


She bowed back her torso

upending her breasts to the sun.


"Slonce," she whispered, "moj slonce"

And the sun, obeying her appelation, melted the spires

lowering her into an act of consubstantiation.


Imperceptably, the altar, too, evanesced beneath them -

and their names with it.





The mingled scents of rotting gardenias,

man and woman,

earth steaming with sun-baked snow,

brought small animals


Auburn foxes sniffed at the altar's pools

Buff fawns licked at the base of the last spire

Umber hares nosed their way above the groundline

to see an alien vista-

vaporous loam,

lacy domes of hollow snowdrifts,

spindly trees with awkward muffs

of new growth along the trunks


His neck snapped as if from a blow

and with his wizened eyes he squinted

to see, many roods away,

a horizon coronaded by the smokestacks

of his blackened cities.


At a sharpening of his hip

he shifted aside

picking out shards of obsidian.

With her hair he braided these together

and laid them as a collar around her neck.


"Moszimy idze," he commanded

she looked down at the soiled ermine,

the tattered satin,

the muddied gauze of her veil


"Yes, but we can't go naked," she said


He slipped the altar cloth from under her

It remained starched and dry.

As they stood he wrapped the

linen over both their shoulders


They began to walk toward the city

beneath the darkest cloud.

As they struggled through the slime

their toes raked up tendrils

of still rootless poppies.


Near to the city, the ground dried

and small stones cut their feet.


She found them a dry rock

and unlacing the yellowing shoots

from between their toes

she wove them into sandals


In these they passed under the arch

of this turreted city unnoticed.


"Lubisz mnie?" he asked her

"In the pit of my belly I do," she said


"You're so physical...I want you to love me

with your head and with your heart"


"That was once possible in our white home,"

she said, caressing him

"Snow blind and snow bound,

We didn't know about our bellies."





How dare you make me open my throat to drink

And then pull the bottle’s lip away?

How dare you give me those sweet looks

Then turn to me with eyes gone gray?

How dare you let me open my ears to hear

And then go mute looking only to play?


I am crying. You see me crying?

Si tu veux de moi,

Ne te moque pas de moi!

Isn’t this amusing to you?


I forbid you ever to make me laugh again.





Deep inside me


a tiny, wild creature





To quell that darling thing

would kill my essence.

So, shush, little one,



Dream of your companion

to come

one night,



inside you.










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