<i><b>Wicked Alice Poetry Journal
wicked alice| summer 2007

Melissa Culbertson

Titian Magdalene

She is naked,
sweet,  peeled, neon nectarine -
    Titian’s juicy Magdalene.

An art fiend’s tall glass of
Orange Crush served
    A nympho’s slice
        of  pumpkin pie.

She nips vodka oranges,
sips bitters with lips like
candied hollyhock.

Magdalene, tigerlily in a broze vase –
    knight’s star, matagon, belladonna calla.
        Oilpaints on orangewood.

She’s a vindaloo vixen, all coaxed
curls, carrothair draped in
    vines of blazing bougainvillea.

She smokes cigarettes hand-rolled in
marigold petals; stubs them out
on maps of 
    Southern California.

Magdalene of sepia snapshots,
peach-fuzz navels. Her skin,
waxy, puckered like rind. She
sheds orange zest in the clawfoot
bathtub, rinses her feet in
citrus water –
    sweet seville, china blood, valencia. 

She scales the walls of the Grand Canyon,
follows a Protestant theology of Dutch
independence, revolutions and pyrotechnics.

        (She collects ashes from firework shells,
            offers them up to Momotaro, the boy
                born from the center of a peach.)

Magdalene, painted lady -
    mexican sister, sleepy orange, white peacock.

An electric shock copper kettle:
she is voltaic, volcanic,
sweating magma marmalade onto
the terracotta floors of the Galleria Palatina,
where Magdelene hangs,
    fossilized; an ancient
        monarch in amber.

A still life.
A sucked orange.

(thanks to Kristy Bowen’s “sweet”)

A woman carves the pit from an avocado
and calls it a lobotomy.
The wrinkles and puckers, the amygdala

Could it be needles, squalls,
the way the nerves flicker
like Roman candles. The stinging
of vinegar, lust.
Heels pressed to hamstring.

Her yellow eyelids hum
With wasps, the shells of locusts.
Their anatomies shed on birches.
Branches choking lungs from
the ribs and raking.

Each day she sucks nickels
from the honey jar, her stomach
like a barn gutted by hay-fire.

Like Medea she knows how
the red pools in the white
ravine of the eye socket.
Understands that mostly men react
to fleece. The others
burn by battle-ax and brine. 

The Shoebox Letters


Dear bramble. Dear braid. Dear beer-drowned bee.

I sought you out. I saw your footprints in the front carpet. Heel sole heel sole etched like exclamations. Everything pointed to open windows, locked laundry chutes. The floorboard holds daisychains, birdseed, psalms. I map the sequence, deduce that to run is to whip is to tear multiplied by the number of stairs it takes to reach the attic. Subtract the length of your nightgown, the width of your shoulders. Divide the days your mother made you kneel in a church pew. Hail Mary. Jesus melts under your virgin tongue.


Dear oxblood. Dear saintweed. Dear ring-around-the-rosy.

If I pressed an ear to your stomach, would I hear the thorn he buried there last year? The scars he carved: yes, the dark spoon of your belly; forever, your headboard, dresser drawers, the words etched like concave braille. His inked initials bled through your panties as you ran in the rain, staining skirts with hard consonants, red vowels. Then it was long coats. Loose frocks. You kept a box with a rope and compass buried under the porch, said your daughter would need it someday. You said it’s only addition between mother and smothered.


Dear mincemeat. Dear mermaid. Dear kitty kitty kitty.

This time, to find you did not require gardenspades. Matchsticks. Divining rods. I hooked the ring in the neck of the sinkpipe with a strand of dental floss, a refrigerator magnet the shape of the state of Florida. A ring is an equation: to wed is a knot and you are hitched to the ceiling. Just married. Merry widow. Widow in the window with a swagger like a willow, her hair in a hangman’s hood.

Polaroid of Barbara-Jean the Jilted

You place a matchbook beneath the leg
of the dinner table, to keep it from creaking.
Oscillating fans wave, blow the napkins
to the tile, where they float like lace; lilypads.

You hover over saucepans, stir gristle from
bone, the baby balanced like
bread in the bend of your elbow. 
Later, you will cry and blame the onions.

Sundays you dress the girls in daisyprint, wonder
how to explain to them why you hide
a knife in the freezer, why you fold yourself into
the coat-closet, screaming into fox-furs & fleece.

Scarred blonde bristle, your girls,
their backs blistered, pressed red. They
yell to you from clotheslines. Dance the way you
used to, only with shirtsleeves – not barmen.

Blame your hips, your flirting teeth.
The way a skirt flutters on a woman’s thighs,
makes men want to bend you like a knotted spoon.
Grind you into salt on a stained mattress.

Remember the wolf-whistles, fast hands, good
gin. Then they leave you with children, checkbooks.
The girls hold to treeroots, handlebars; how to explain to them that
the man holding the camera will never fully make it into the frame.

Femme Fatale

Her sister is virginal as pointelle.
A white eyelet dress.
But our vixen is sweet meat,
marking tallies on men’s chests with
red-black toenails, burning earlobes with
lip-prints; smoke-snakes.

Something buzzes when she
hikes up her skirt, reveals a sliver of
black-hosed thigh.
Her voice is a vigil. A vigilante.
She has a mouth like a
whorehouse floor.

Crows gather when she giggles.
Gives them a flash of hot throat.
She’s most at home when she’s
chained to the radiator.
We know that there are bullet-holes
beneath her kitchen wallpaper.

That she is naked
under that raincoat.


Melissa Culbertson's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flyway: A Literary Review, Windows, Pebble Lake Review, Barn Owl Review, and Juliet Cook's poetry project [growling softly]. She is the co-editor of Blossombones.