Rebecca lives in Seattle where she teaches poetry workshops and plays violin for Philharmonia Northwest Chamber Orchestra. She is an editor of Literary Salt, www.literarysalt.com. She's recently had poems published in Crab Orchard Review, Switched-on Gutenberg, American Jones Building & Maintenance, Spindrift, King County Poetry & Art On The Buses, and Between The Lines. Ms. Loudon has work forthcoming in Heliotrope, and a Glenn Gould anthology. She was the winner of the Richard Hugo House Cultural Inquiry on Disappearences in October, 2000.
How Margaret Falls
She has fallen again, splayed on hands and knees
in the parking lot of the Italian restaurant.
In the car, she digs small stones from each palm, the top of her left foot--
a botched stigmata.
It's like this, she says, I got up too fast, dizzy
from gin in a glass thin enough to bite.
She lights a cigarette, throws her ruined stocking out the window.
I lean across the steering wheel, lick Brazen Raisin lipstick
from her mouth, tongue her overlapping tooth.
We are not,
we are not,
we are not what you think.
Margaret presses fingers to eyes,
arches her foot once, twice, against the dashboard.
Every morning his wife leaned over the sink,
scraped burnt toast with the flat of a butter knife:
schrack, schrack, schrack, schrack,
hips shifting inside a blue bathrobe knotted
tight as a Boy Scout's kerchief.
The noise cracked his skin. First, a blister
back of his knees, then his thighs splotched.
Crimson bloomed to groin, belly, palms, face.
He bathed in colloidal oats, slathered cortisone
and talc into the soft folds of his body.
The rash grew like a carapace; even the tiny curves
between his toes crusted and split.
Ointments, salves, balms did not tame the wheals
forming along his spine.
He needed a poultice: sheets damped in river water,
milk-soaked bread twined to his trunk with gauze,
another skin against his, a great molting.
She said, I can smell you from the other room, pushed
his scaly hand from her breast, walked to the kitchen,
to her cups, bowls, spoons and plates, her sink
with its gleaming spigot, her slick, white oven.
Dreaming Patsy Cline
I stand so close to the microphone,
pomegranate lipstick smudges
the honeycombed case,
slide hands down my waist
along a flare of hips.
White satin sings against my palms.
Men watch my ass,
little girls in cowboy hats
think I'm too big, too bold.
My voice corkscrews from my body
like something wild tearing its way out
and their faces turn up to me, and they are in love.
I lift two fingers,
touch the scars on my forehead,
nylon skin of my wig itching and hot.
The boys play too fast
on this sloped uncertain stage.
I need a drink.
Pancake makeup thick in the lights
oils the creases around my mouth,
washes into my eyes.
I miss my sweet house,
babies pillowed in their beds.
My suitcase is packed:
a bottle of gin,
gold lamé slippers
and a cigarette lighter that plays Dixie.
The Magician's Assistant
Schostakovich Symphony # 9 glitters large as a city.
Its machinery pistons her internal rhythms,
caroms off buildings, shakes her apart at the heel.
She doesn't understand the edge, paper-cut that zigzags
beneath the slow bow, languid release of wrist.
She cannot speak, rooted to a high-backed chair.
Her rhinestone tiara is askew; he lifts her hair
in wings over her head, neck exposed.
Her fingers split from cold weather,
from practice. He complains she plays mechanically.
She bends into music as a lover bends.
Staccato notes scatter like bird seed.
He watches her legs move under her dress, thinks
about her warm mouth. He is preparing
to put her in the red lacquered box, saw her in half.
Fritz Lang in a white silk suit waves a hankie from the balcony;
a high wire sparkles between them, no net.
Music settles like milk in her throat--
here the melody is carried by bassoon and bass,
sleepy as plump fairy-tale children.
She starfishes arms and legs for his knife throwing act.
He aims for the web of her fingers,
between her legs, directly above her head.
She spins in her sequined costume, stiletto heels.
He swooshes his cape; the audience swoons.
If she moves any faster, she will vibrate into nothing.
Music pulls her open, pins her like a prize insect
gleaming and static.
Lucy's legs bucked and pumped,
strained against the yellow dress
her father wove from silk with bits of bone
to press her ribs straight. He tightened a wool cap
to hold hair itching against her skull.
No boys sniffed around Lucy's door-
she chose her narrow room,
sealed her ruby seam with wax,
bolted the candle to her palm.
Fortunato saw her first,
bartering fowl in the public square.
She circled and hexed the vendor's cart.
Her eye, he noticed, pulsed pink,
livid with dust and the reek
of market air. He told her she was beautiful
as gosling down.
Lucy spat at Fortunato's feet.
Charmed, he followed her home,
scratched and whined
let me break your chicken's neck,
pluck and boil, sweep pinfeathers
from the kitchen floor.
Ever her father's girl,
Lucy cut out her eyes,
arranged them on a plate,
served them up to the boy's
Breakfast With Clara
I wonder how Clara Schumann felt
screwing Brahms, behind Robert's back.
Did she dream of pulling her fingers
through Brahms' blonde hair
as she sat down to breakfast
spreading jam on black bread?
Songs glitter in Clara's brain like bees in a box,
brimming over, spilling onto the sun-washed table.
Even the curtains tremble
Her legs shift nervously under her morning dress
fingers tap against a milky tea cup.
Clara, stop tapping.
I would eat your music like a peach dear Robert
and wear the stone in my button shoe
if only you would let me be.
Children hover in the nursery voices tinny and chirping.
Robert's eyes twitch like lizard eyes,
his pallor green as the Rhein.
Dreaming Patsy Cline first appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Breakfast With
Clara first appeared in Taverners Koans and The Magician's Assistant and
Saint Lucy are forthcoming in Literary Salt.