The Harlot Visits the Cemetery
Color Me Brazenberry
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The woman next door rushes at me
Chinese paper dragon in a San Francisco parade;
her native tongue snaps back, forth – cymbals,
drums discordant to one too naïve to follow
her fireworks. She swears I pilfered kin
from her yard, stole idolized ore, boulders
that bore the names of her dead. She calls the cops;
I call her crazy. We split along the bias. In May,
she moves to Tucson to midwife for her daughter.
In a Year of the Monkey a
decade later, I spend
days sketching pictographs of foremothers
on sacred stones outside my home: Honor, Health,
Compassion, Imagination, Knowledge, Loyalty,
Art, Whimsy, Beauty, Laughter, Love. I birth
bottle rockets, scrawl Serendipity in flagrant
Oriental Red across my breasts to scare the beast.
I invite my Sicilian neighbor to Guo Nian.
She says I'm crazy and she doesn't eat Moroccan.
~ MJM, March, 2001
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Harlot Visits the Cemetery
(‘til Death Do Us Part)
A lock of hair
lifted by November wind
falls across the cigarette she dangles from her lips.
It strikes her funny. They would have liked seeing
her head go up in flames. They would have said
she was getting her just
desserts. If they had known.
But no one knew. There were cigarettes then, too --
afterwards; vintage merlots -- before. And a journal
he shared with only her. The same book
she has tucked beneath the
leather jacket she wears.
Pictures of his performance on stages in New York.
Leaping lightly from the wooden floor. Dance
itself. Photos of poise suspended in mid-
flight. And personal thoughts
he chose to record
before a wife, a lover and a mortgage befuddled him.
She'd stolen nothing but love, so she believed
she had a right to slip the journal from the shelf.
Everyone else at the wake was
with the widow, and hams, hugs and flowers.
No one realizes the harlot needs comforting
as well. She couldn't fall to her knees.
She couldn't wail too loud or
had no right to a public display of dramatics.
In the cemetery after everyone has gone,
she falls to her knees, wails too loud, too long,
flogs the freshly mounded earth
with her fists.
She needs to pull him from the ground, pound
his skeletal chest, demand to know why
he'd chosen to die as he had lived. The dance
suspended in mid-flight. Those
mistake her for a widow getting her just desserts.
Exhausted, she rolls from her knees to sit
with her back against his headstone for support.
Opens the journal, reads his
own intents aloud
to him; lights cigarette after cigarette. Reads until
his virtue freezes solid in a frigid November wind.
~ MJM, August 17, 1998
(Featured in the
February 2001 edition of Mentress Moon)
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It Comes Back Around
push coconut sunscreen to back of
cabinet; take last whiff;
scrub racks, hose down barbecue, roll into garage, cover;
stand naked in the rain, conduct thunder and lightning;
pull dying flowers, rake ground, clean flowerpots, cry;
pack cotton dresses, store sandals, stow straw purse;
peel off linen slipcovers, send them to drycleaners;
clean picnic basket, wash red-checked tablecloth;
eat final sun-warmed tomato and bing cherries;
whisper goodbye to fireflies, crickets, lizards;
remove window screens, repair holes, weep;
take off wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses;
unplug cord, put away ice cream machine;
close windows, turn off fan; whimper;
curse Persephone and pomegranates;
stare directly into amethyst sunset;
tug the drapes, shut the blinds
flick off the lights, wither;
fold myself inside
MJM, September 13, 1998
from 8/2000 to 12/2000 at The Poet's Porch)
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titled: "Where I'm From")
Absentminded flips through
at the sidewalk sale offer little
beyond Gauguin- and Matisse-like
reproductions selling by the pound
like flounder at the fishmonger's.
of the masters.
Slightly raw, left to rot unnoticed
like a bunch of half-eaten halibuts
flopping in the back of the fridge.
upon a canvas
unlike all the others. Finely crafted,
labored over laboriously; no detail left
uncooked, brush strokes meld to linen.
The view is from the patio
of a chalk-colored
villa set on a crevice
in the cliffs. White sails bob
in the harbor below, black hibiscus blooms
in all the flowerpots. The sea is a hue
that hasn't been born yet.
A single deck
naked and turning tan; the crystal glass
of Beaujolais begs the sapphire sky
to take a dip, tint its liquid purple as a plum.
where I'm from," I announce.
"I thought you were born in New Jersey?
That definitely ain't New Jersey,"
you rudely remind me.
I prop the canvas
upright on the cement,
step inside the landscape. Strip off
my clothing, pick up my glass of wine.
Drink the whole of it deeply,
own the harbor of where I'm from.
August 30, 1998
The lipstick on my dressing table
is my mother. It hovers there,
makes my lips round into an "O."
I mimicked the way she shaped
her mouth when all I had to stain
my skin were summer strawberries.
The lipstick is the overt flirt dressed
in Chinese Red, longing to mambo,
to feel one strong hand placed low
on her hip. She moves her feet in time
with his, steps on his toes with grace.
The lipstick is an arrow to womanhood,
shot with dexterity. When it pierces
a man, he bleeds lust like blood, pleads
to have your Violet X-treme name
smeared in wild streaks below his navel.
The lipstick is a heady stem of wine
raised to engorged lips. Claret, burgundy,
or bordeaux reminds the reformed
alcoholic why he drank. Pour another,
he says, and after that, pour one more.
The lipstick is a knife, turns flesh
from pale to plum. Words sharpen
as they pass over the blade,
too well honed to be ignored.
People listen to a lipsticked mouth.
Lipstick is mother, flirt, arrow, wine,
knife -- a weapon masquerading as a beauty
enhancement product. Armed with a phallus
such as this, the last thing women
should be accused of is penis envy
on September 12, 1998
in the February 2001 edition of Mentress Moon)
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If this is the lunch
Where you tell me
your relationship with Her is so much better
you've really worked things out this time
you must direct all your energies to Her
you're determined as hell to keep it alive
you can't split yourself in two directions anymore
gee whiz, I've been swell about the whole thing
Save it -
I know the lines.
Go away quietly
And let me believe
You're above all that.
I wasn't really very hungry, anyway
I'm ten times stronger than you think.
MJM, June 10, 1998
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MJM 1987-20001. All rights reserved.