wicked alice| fall 2011
Whatever the Other Life Brings
Iím splattered with malignant brown paint.
My freckles transform while they dry.
As they darken, my dermatologist develops
the frown lines she is always talking about.
My family crest includes melanoma, sutures.
The only music in the office, a Kenny Rogers
CD on random. Lucille played three times
during the procedure.You picked a fine time
for an excision, Lucille. You picked a fine time
to get cancer, Lucille. The doctor digs out
two hungry freckles and puts them into vials.
I'm numb but I know she's sewing me into a Lucille.
Was the thread red, originally, or did it tint
from stitching me shut? I worry the doctor's
hurting won't heal. While I dress, I examine
the two vials, one chunk in each: one floats,
the other sunk to the bottom. Are cancer cells
light or heavy? I wait at home like Lucille's
husband for my doctor to call with the test results.
The rest of my spots loom like a crop in a field.
I Purchased Judy's Entire Wardrobe at Her Estate Sale
I could only fit into her dresses the Summer my boyfriend left. I lived alone for the first time, told everyone I was not trying to wither, thin. My dress gleamed, gold satin with rhinestone buttons. My office congratulated me on my weight loss, wished they could get dumped.
I wished they could get dumped too. Her one store-bought dress: black wool with a red center panel, gave me an underbelly like a cartoon animal. I pretended
I was her: buying groceries I wasn't going to eat, my husband at home waiting for me. Our closets glutted with clothes I sewed for us. I hand-washed and pressed, hung laundry.
Her initials beaded onto a blouse: JJ.
I wore it anyway. My only conversations were about losing things. A papery seersucker awaited its hem, still pinned. The print resembled faces when I stared at it too long.
I stared at everything too long. My stiff, pleated purse made noises like cardboard, like a package with a gift inside. Every night, I squeezed my feet with both hands, tried to narrow them, but her shoes remained too tight.
Sometimes my feet lifted off the ground when I walked, skimmed the sidewalk. Did Judy feel this way too? Was it because I faded, diaphanous? Because I wore the dresses of a ghost?
I have arms, but I can't peel myself
from the front of the boat. My hands occupied
with pointing at something in the sky, my job
of steering. I soothe fevers, provide limes.
I carry the whole ship on my back.
Bring me some water without salt in it, bring
clothes that aren't just paint. My dress as old
as a galleon, it can't be re-carved. We slide
around the ocean like a dance floor.
My feet hover above water that salts my toes,
soaks my hemline. Ocean is my type of land.
It breezes my stiff hair, its night sky hides us
under its black jacket. I've been following a bright
spot in the sky. If we sink, there is another star
on the sea floor I can use as a guide.
A shipfull of men pursues me. When sailors release
or hoist my sails, it feels like they lift or smooth
down my dress. My sculptor carved my lips into a kiss.
His paintbrush hairs spread gloss on my body.
He was a gentleman, waited until my paint dried.
When everyone sleeps, a sailor on night watch climbs
to the edge of the stern, leans over the forepeak. He kisses
my cheek, holds my outstretched hand. The ring he gave me
slipped from my stiff palm. The water gulped. I watch him
on shore, his arms around a girl who looks like me.
Itís true, I borrowed it. Folded itís jiggly tubes, its metal framework, tucked
it into the gape of my purse.
I try the binaurel piece around my neck, doctorís office style. I drape
the whole thing like a scarf, hospital style.
Of course, I put it down my boyfriendís shirt.
I put it down my shirt.
His heart gallops, it whinnies and bucks.
Then settles down, back to just eating grass, smelling the air.
Mine vibrates like a show dog during its gait, her tiny legs
running to invisibility. So quick and small, not sure if I actually hear it.
She won best in group this year.
I eavesdrop my neighborís clock ticking through our shared wall.
It runs fast.
The safe dial creaked like a wind up toy.
I heard the money inside, rustling.
Valerie Loveland is the author of Reanimated, Somehow (Scrambler Books, 2009). She appeared in Dzanc Book's Best
of the Web 2008 Anthology, and was featured at Massachusetts Poetry Festival. She is an optician apprentice and enjoys
running, audio poetry, and kiln glass arts.