Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grandmother's Tattoo 5

Facing west, there are aisles through gravestones.
Everywhere, the same thing, cottonwoods blazing yellow. 

A peacock sweeps the ground with his tail.
Hi-ho, he says, and flutters his fanny.

Maggie thinks this is a 3-D animation
or maybe the Pasty Lump Lady with more tricks.
His reedy voice is like a clarinet's. 

Maggie misses her grandmother's tattoo,
the only remnant that remains of her family,
her one connection stolen by a boy
with eyes the color of melting honey.

Or does she miss the boy?

I'm lost, she explains,
gestures toward the broken skateboard,
and I’m on foot.

The peacock extracts a long feather from his tail.

My gift to a girl,
guaranteed to get you wherever you need to go.

He swishes his feathers and disappears into the yellow cottonwoods.

Maggie waves the feather and hopes for magic.
Nothing doing.

She wants to return to a delta of square one,
to pop-up from the middle like a seed from a plum.

But the Pasty Lump Lady has stolen her hunger.

Even so, there’s more to Maggie than pancakes.

At the intersection of Sections I and M,
vines cling to trees like long lost relatives.

In another part of the graveyard,
the sun burns a hole in an apron and busts out.

Maggie draws warmth around her like a cashmere sweater.
She accidentally drops the skateboard to the ground. A chase.

In Section C, she finds the skateboard.
There’s a boy playing a fiddle, his face as white as a ruffled shirt.
The fingerboard has a ketchup label,
the fiddle, Norwegian Codfish.

He says his name is Bartholomew, Mew for short,
sees the feather,
and tells her he used to play softball with the peacock.
And you?

Maggie of the Misfit Foot. She tells him everything.
He not so much.

I rescue music from garbage heaps. That’s all,
and begins to walk away.

She wants him to stay, offers the skateboard as a sacrifice.
And like a man about to buy a new car, he considers--

Solid wood. Gold rims. No financing. Sweet.

He plays the fiddle until his music fills the grove with sunlight.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grandmother's Tattoo 4

Chewing on words like camp, railroad, gold teeth.

Little snot go wipe your nose
or Mr. Potato Head will plant a carrot between your toes.

She wakes up to a day that is half night,
morning throws off a purple bathrobe.

Birch trees point trunks
like arthritic fingers in different directions.

Hungry. She combs her hair with two fingers,
jumps on the skateboard to hunt for breakfast.

Mountains breathe an ancient cold in her face,
which makes her think of pancakes,

yeasty bubbles erupting from a warm skillet
with the sweet smell of maple syrup.

She steers down an aisle hoping to find a food court,
bends her knees and waves her hands, a thrasher,

leans toward a clearing with white tents
surrounded by grave markers and live peacocks.

Her gold wheels screech to a halt. A woman
whose flesh is attached to her arms in pasty lumps
steps out to meet her.

Maggie throws caution through a window, and breaks silence.
She asks for food.

So. Hungry Girl got money?

Maggie is only a poor girl without an allowance
who happens to be hungry.
And why is hunger, she asks herself, 
not its own winning argument?

She knows the only thing her fingers will find is lint.
She digs inside her pocket anyway.
Her hand strikes an empty seam bed.

Not so fast, says the Pasty Lump Lady.
Not so Lackawanna Railroad.

She says if Maggie dislocates a wheel from its axle
and gives it to the Pasty Lump Lady, breakfast will be served.

Pasty Lump Lady steals Maggie’s hunger.
She feeds her pancakes, eggs, syrup, until it is time to fold up shop,
uses the glint from the gold wheel 
to wrap sunlight inside her apron.

It was daylight just a few moments ago.
Maggie's mind is a basket filled with broken stuff.

She stuffs the skateboard under her arm.
Time to pack up what she jumped off.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Grandmother's Tattoo 3

Yoo-hoo! Girlie!
What's the big rush like you've got a date or something?

There's no one here to give you the right time of day,
and in case you're wondering,

I'm the voice of the graveyard,
alive, but not in your 1-2-3. Capice?

So much for introductions.
So much for this and that.

Let's get real and nail the coffin.
You're Maggie of the misfit foot.

Here's what to do:

Under the lidless eyeball of the sun,
keep riding until you find Section P. 

When you hear a kid
playing music from a garbage pile,

take his hand and he'll help you find your Granny.

That was it? Really?
To trust a voice echoing through leaves?

Somewhere a railroad car screeched to a halt.
Or maybe it was a dog barking.

Soft smell of cypress.
Maggie rolled the skateboard beneath her head.

A handbook of dreams wheeled her away:
      Snowberries attract birds and require little water.

At an airport security check:
      Everyone must remove all belts and empty pockets.

A host asked during a game show:
      What do most people want to see when they die?

There is a light above her head.
She never asked to be here,

alone as the tongue in her mouth.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Grandmother's Tattoo 2

Would she rather be at the shopping mall checking out clearance racks
than sailing on this red shoe of a skateboard moving her closer to the abyss,
not that Maggie knew what the abyss looked like.

Maybe a new department store where designer clothes 
were scattered higgledy-piggledy on tablesnot even hangers.
The Abyss. 

Forget shopping. Right now in this moment,
the first order of business, 
to rescue her grandmother's tattoo
from the hands, calves, or chest of that buffoon

who had absolutely swept her off her feet,
only to abandon Maggie to an off-duty traffic cop
who hoarded skateboards.

Now she was inside her own video game,
her hands clammy with a thin coat of luck.

On her left, 
she saw a mountain as sharp as a swear word,

and sailed her carpet to its widow's peak,
looked down once again, saw the tabula rasa 

where in former times, her grandmother's tattoo
had encircled her ankle. Now robbed, bare, uncertain,

Maggie felt she was the last live link in a line of women, 
who had arrived here.

And where was here?

She heard an old woman's voice,
Your eyes are open like a cow on the hillside.

All she could see was a slope 
covered in a tureen of red autumnal leaves

marked by several hundred monuments
pimpled with rocks.