Photo Credit: meganpru
He sets his mug on the grass and jams the
shovel in, raising the roots of berry
canes anyone else would tear out for dead.
He says, When you plant them, give them space, they’ll
spread eight feet a season. I’ve just met him
over a low fence between our yards and
already I know his rye grass will be
turned under for six kinds of potatoes,
that two blocks away lives a wild bee hive
and just last night, he put his wife in the
hospital. Heroin, he says. I guess
she wouldn’t want you to know it, though.
He tramps the yard in a leather Harley
vest. He drinks his coffee black and offers:
an heirloom gooseberry sprout, a plum sucker
seedling, rogue raspberry canes. Volunteers—
shoots blithely hopeful—that in gardeners’
code we pass from bed to bed and ape their
optimism in poor soil. They multiply
like memories, but these we dig and hand
out, these scraggly vines that might bear fruit.
I straddle the wire fence, cradling
all his naked roots. He wants no thanks. I’ve
got to dig them anyway, he says. He
shrugs. It’s then I finally ask his name.
Hearts in the soup pot float in stew
stained red, roots threaded through
resembling vasculature leaking as if egg dye ran
vermilion. Burlier than eggs, like clenched hands,
they bob in broth of wine-doused
blood, just three of them, silent about
their origins, whose chest they filled,
whose blood they tilled,
boiled soundless lest the telltale
hearts reveal soil beneath my nails.
Last Dancing Girl
You opened the door, snuck me past alarms and
slipped me to your room. You laid a feast—morsels
sauced in stories of the last girl—as we deposed
her bedroom lace. (Nothing more than laundry.)
Easy up and down we danced on your command.
You slipped the keys on my chain and maps
in my memory so I might get to you in the dark.
You asked me to swear. Swear you’d never be alone.
Then you pressed me down the laundry chute.
Easy come, easy go! One dance grows old!
I stole maps and copied keys. I tattooed your voice
on the petal skin inside my wrist and trailed its pulse
like ultraviolet nectar guides for bees. You led me here.
And now I stand on the steps of your brick house.
I’ll knock on your door. I’ll use your key.
The little key that cracks the room where she dances now
on a pedestal to a tinkling tune, twisted in ribbon
secrets, secrets outing me. Me, the last dancing girl.
You’ll feel me fill your old spaces, tug the strings
to our old dance and comfort familiar will creep,
summer slate cool on feet, soft like faith, vestigial muscle
memory of me, loving you. What will you do then?
Because baby, I promised. No matter how you lock
yourself away, I can’t leave you alone.
The period to a line of questions.
End paragraph, end ignorance, end fret
over sentences wandering in want
of closure. Closing statement, marked in red.
Red, for once, a beautiful, bejeweled
dot, carmine captured in glass, true hue
imbued with certainty
of engines, cherry stains, brass band and squeal
at the stoplight, two AM.
Viscous strands unraveling, nets
dissolving, curled and unfurled commas,
semicolons; brief breaths that fuel the story.
How was red ever an ink of mistake?
She begins alone, just a girl and a
bag of pieces she unzips on the grass.
Improbable bits of aluminum pipe,
canvas in tangle, delusions
of floating. She builds, slots into notches,
pins and pivots like skeleton joints and
the curiosity of it draws them in
like flies—men. Men of that certain age, with
boating or dreams of boats bobbing in their
blood. Men of a certain fascination
for the bones of things that look to outlast
them—bones of houses, bones of fantasy,
bones of boats. She slides on skin, canvas tight
like that red dress and those men, they see the
craft the parts are meant to be and she is
beautiful. She is miraculous. She is
watertight and full of grace. She puts in,
improbably afloat inside her tight
skin drum, built of pieces as they watched, from
tangle to torpedo and they lifted
no hand. It’s a sin and a miracle,
they think. She paddles out, leaving them on
shore; those men, go home having seen something,
after years of having seen it all.
Christie Isler teaches ten-year-olds during the day and writes poetry and short fiction around the edges. To date, she has published several pieces, both poetry and short fiction, in a variety of online journals including Shoots & Vines, The New Flesh, Identity Theory, Infinite Windows, Bolts of Silk, Four and Twenty, Poetry Quarterly, All Things Girl, Every Day Poets and Every Day Fiction. Christie makes her physical home outside of Seattle, Washington and her online home at Letters Home. Email: christie.isler[at]gmail.com