Issue 9 :: Summer 2007 
Avatar Review

Patrick Carrington

The Elders

When drought came to San Joaquin,
they say the sun died at dusk
just like the unpicked fruit.
It would leak its last wrinkled light
on migrants walking with hoes
and shovels shouldered, and then

fall, dark and dead into the Pacific
like a dry berry to ground.
The elders knew it was time then
to care. Old men pointed to sea
to buoy the boys, talked of boats
bursting with albacore. And when
mission bells filled the valley
at night, they spoke of Christ
and resurrection and new light.

Long before dawn, the abuelas
with eyes bright as Spanish song
baked jeweled king’s bread though
Christmas was worlds away. They
spit-polished blue Talavera plates,
overflowed them with huevos y chorizo
and heavy grapefruits halved. Wet,
and as pink as sunup over High Sierra.

Absorbed into a Penny Dreadful

Smoke curls from the pouting lipstick
of bad girls
and prints a yellow stain upon my eyes.

I smell Chanel and Lucky Strikes. I want
to sink into the cover
and tour the margins of their world,

their suite of romance and crime.
I rub my thumbs
on their magic breasts like lamps

to pass through pulp to the truth
of those hard blondes
in my paperback looking glass

as they lean on lampposts unbuttoned,
knee bent, a high heel
poled so the dark ring of high nylon

chimes with echoes deep as the canyons
of their cleavage.
They are unbridled, shadowed by ruin

and invitation to join them in the night,
to forget
the shiny dime of daybreak and soak

them in to lick their cheap confection,
to swallow that wild light,
the streetlamp souls of strangers.


The slow lock of night brings
the color of her absence,

a charming stillness to her sleep.
Mouth open, as ready to kiss

as Main St. statues are to charge
to war, knowing nothing

of the heartache in a lonely jaw
kept wide, the defeat of one foot

before the other, going nowhere.
They’re content. But admirers

wish them loose, their step
a pirouette, a brutal march,

their tongues extended. For we
with candles, breathing

beside a bed revering perfect
imperfection, in moonlight fixed

on notches in a soldier’s cheek
made long ago by wild boys

with egos full of wine, the charm
of still life only goes so far.

I want them to dance.

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