When She Was Bad
What does having a curl
right in the middle
of her forehead have to do
with anything? This little girl,
her attitudinal dichotomy.
Very, very good or
horrid. The curl, coquettish,
Is that what this is all about?
Can she only be
very, very good, or
a rosy cheeked Lilith,
Her clear-eyed knowing:
The portable turntable still plays.
Just so you know. I got it out last night,
sat on the deck with a stack of our records,
the bottle of good scotch we were saving.
The needle still works, but the speed
isn’t quite right, and the records are scratched,
so all the songs go in and out like some
’60s hippy dancer pop-art montage,
hands waving, expounding on an hourglass,
broken up by an occasional
bad film splice. A flash of nothing,
then a figure, pulled into action
like a marionette. Long skirts swirling;
ugly headbands. That signature vinyl
sound: anticipation. Put the needle
on the record. Hold your breath. The stars
only clarified that you are traveling,
like some latter-day effing wise man
run off with your gold and your myrrh,
looking to present to someone who isn’t
me. It didn’t work, the scotch. I dreamed
I woke up, saw you strap your shoes on,
light a cigarette, the way you do
on the bench at the foot of our bed.
I watched you from behind, cupping your hand
around the flame. And then I woke up
expecting to see you there, smell your night sweat
and hand-rolled tobacco. But the bench remains
empty. The bottle and the street,
they comfort me. I wear them like smoke.