By Jenifer Browne Lawrence
We Had a Marriage
It did not die an easy death. You were ratcheting winter stars,
you were dead at a soldier’s hand. I watched you horse
your rowboat in cloudy seas. Your heroine, no expert,
waited for high tide to throw you a line.
We’d been walking on the backs of turtles.
How had it taken so long to fall in?
Three images tattooed on your shoulder, freestyle
in a soldier’s hand: face of the north, blood-berries,
and a milky sea. You climbed for the love of salt-split skin,
and the blood trail you left for the woodcutter’s
children. We had a marriage die—it wasn’t easy.
New green filled the canopy. A boy reached for a blossom
in a shaft of light, his mouth forming the word. Don’t speak
of what you have lost. Here is your gear box,
your ratchet, your grease. Death is a marriage
made easier by time. You began talking after we died. Our shirts
bleached, your tags forgotten on a coat hook. You did not die
of the smell of kerosene or in a bag of rice, you remembered to climb
plate by diamond up the terrapin hill. If your father walks in,
remind him we had a marriage. The bed was narrow,
he kicked his own dogs. Your mother could slay a dragon, I
could only fry up the brook trout you took, fighting, as a boy fights
an angel with a stick of bamboo.
Sometimes I forget we had a marriage. It gets easier
to crush a turtle and take its shell for my own.
I saw you fall in desperation into your own arms. Love is a boy
stopped in the back yard by a trail of ants.
He will think that ants die an easy death. He will think
their world is not married to his own.
Your hands could mash a pear to pulp
or airbrush russet flame across an orange
Chevy fender. In the space of an afternoon you turn
a ‘67 Nova into sun, then roar into night’s
avenue. In your garage, a hanging
paper stencil fires up the pegboard,
airgun nestled in its plastic casket,
droplight swinging overhead.
A calico rag on the workbench, the shop cat
sleeps between cans of paint.
When you saw him on the street, spit
and bone, you coaxed him in,
called him Galaxy, brushed his coat
until no trace of grime remained.
The cat still blossoms at your touch,
has never seen what I have seen,
the way your hands bruise fruit
without awareness or intent.
St. Rage Welcomes the Prodigal
You arrive in weatherproof, pearls, streetlit,
streaked in yellow, you arrive and I answer,
bent with cirrhosis, I open the door. Your mouse-tail
hair matted, over-loved. A cone of light
trails after you. In a velveteen mini you make your way:
stairwell, loveseat, candle-waxed wine bottle.
The door shuts itself, it is always you in vinyl thigh boots,
pinpointed veins mapping Memphis to Detroit,
Detroit to Reno to Portland. The light follows, and the rain.
Umbrella in the corner, whiskey for the road you answer to,
I open the door and it is you, nine again, unnoticed runaway
defeated, defiant. Of the rabbit in the storybook?
I lied. In defense, I never meant to leave
scars. On the shelf thick with dust your one doll
never blinks, you never blink when I answer
the door, you in tandem, coming and going,
you, two halves of the same daughter.
Jenifer Browne Lawrence is the author of Grayling (Perugia Press) and One Hundred Steps from Shore (Blue Begonia Press). Awards include the Perugia Press Prize, the Orlando Poetry Prize, the James Hearst Poetry Prize, the Potomac Review poetry award, and a Washington State Artist Trust GAP grant. Recent work appears in Los Angeles Review, Narrative, North American Review, Rattle, and elsewhere. Jenifer lives on Puget Sound in Washington State, and edits Crab Creek Review. jeniferlawrence.net