Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975

New Poems, by Rebecca Lu Kiernan.

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 immoveable 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, One

He hoards my poems in a pickled pigs' feet jar
With broken shells in the shapes of angels
And shark teeth.
Once he made a lantern of fireflies
And braided tiger lilies through my hair,
But that has been erased.

He keeps photographs of nude women in his closet
Autographed with best wishes
And common misspellings of his name.
He stood in line at Hooters for that, I guess
While I was home making his birthday cake,
Washing his flight suits.
Once I placed my hand on his cheek
And dismantled his terrible mask,
But that has been forgotten.

He flies in circles like a rabid bat
Following bar napkin maps scrawled in lipstick.
Once he found the gingerbread door of home
But was afraid his mother
Would be angry if he touched it.

Now, starving blue jays have stopped eating from his hand.
He sleeps in strange places and contracts lice,
But even they have stopped biting now,
The taste of dying flesh.

He keeps my poems in a pickled pigs' feet jar
Next to souvenir beer steins
From our trips to the moon
And coasters from bars we frequented
In the otherworld,
And by the bed, a bullet-riddled flag
Of the country he betrayed in his sleep.

He masturbates into the stars and the stripes
Remembering his cock deep in my throat,
Cursing me for the service I had to perform,
Disqualifying him from the mission of his life.


Jepatio Street 9,

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.


Jepatio Street 26,
(Some Questions About Grey Dog)

What if our grey dog came back from the dead?
(Did we bury the body close to the head?)
Would she know us with no blood to her brain?
Would she walk with us on the beach again?

Would her nose be cold, would her chest be warm?
Would she remember the crash, the gunshot, the storm?
She suffered such violence before she went down,
Dragged on parade through our neon beach town.

Walter, at Mcguire's served her a draft.
Drunk, she barked, "Fuck you!" and everyone laughed.
She passed out in our bed, then spoke in her sleep,
Now we've got her terrible secret between us to keep.

Would she demand some record of where we've been?
Would she lie awake worried we'd kill her again?
The star lilies on her unmarked grave are beginning to grow.
Do you think we should let the grey dog go?


Jepatio Street, 27. Epilogue.

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.


Rebecca Lu Kiernan is a frequent contributor to Offcourse. She has published in MS. Magazine, Asimov's Science Fiction, North American Review and numerous other books and magazines in the U.S. and in Australia. She is an editor and lives in the Gulf Coast.

(And, yes, she is all right after Katrina, thank goodness!)




Comments? Tell us!

Back to Offcourse home page