one breast aimed
Cold Blue Ridge Mountain air is bracing
disinfecting what happened to me
into E. 42 nd and Madison, into Kelly Street,
Fort Apache, South Bronx,
I’d become the curve of my waist,
raided flesh and blood around bone.
I made my womanhood myself from pounding
pavements, held together with cigarette butts
and one gorgeous pair of kitten pumps
and I wore them as I breathed and wafted
through the pink-eye sun of August Manhattan
keeping my light going until I could not.
Oh! Those companies who would not
hire me, those ghostly envy-birds all in their rows, Oh,
how they refused to see me over their green awnings
their pinched and orderly wan faces bobbing on thready
necks. I wonder still how they knew to arrive neatly
in my life too often where the soundless stink of petrichor
is never born. They are merely the rusted tools of fate
gone shambolic and my blood my bones my paper-thin
breasts remind me I am an American Woman with a birth
right to have horses and orchids dancing between my legs;
and if I were still young I would set out to fight again even with one
breast aimed at the green awnings— arrows may not make it to the sky.
sing me america
Clean-living women submerge themselves and lick their wounds.
The world is gunning for them.
They no longer wander in and out of coffee shops and boutiques,
clutching law & order in their pocketbooks; now this is war
waged by the mutilated justice system—
All those gouged eyes seeing-blind, those deaf shavings
of ears—come at them rebuking, stonewalling, gaslighting
like the louring slugs that they are—System wants
clean women cowered while criminals in the swamp fog run
the asylum. Clean women cease to be
flesh, become the blood on the ground—the salt stomped on.
To the tune of a snapping sardonic tune, System takes
breathlessly, and manically manically like an avenue jackhammer bullies:
Bend, bend, bend, that soul, clean woman, to our undemocratic violin.
Small little judges, covert, crafty, terribly unromantic, booted ferocious kickers.
We are question marks bent into a Why
you furrow into the loam of our souls, yanking yanking any gallant grace
or good. You disgrace and disdain, you blame clean women for what
your anti-heroes inflict on us. We are not vapors. We ache but go on.
Sing me another song in this injured Republic—and let it be
the clean troll of helical love for clean women who do not
take drugs, do not lie about other women, do not run
over women with their soused bodies parlayed into weapon-cars flying
against the leering, lurid, lewd vacuous dawn sky. Sing
me a song where men with pit-bulls get cited for something—
It was horrific, a Chihuahua’s little eyes in that fist-faced pit’s mouth,
the world a bloody blur, and I recall another attack
when the hydrangeas paraded seductively the beats
of their hearts. And System worked like a well-oiled flower—
Happy so happy for the guilty verdict of rape. Happy I lived
in America’s sweetness when System tapped its magic
wand and clean women were avenged.
Another breath. And another.
Nanette Rayman, author of poetry books, Shana Linda Pretty Pretty, Project: Butterflies, Foothills Publishing, two-time Pushcart nominee, Best of the Net 2007, DZANC Best of the Web 2010, winner Glass Woman Prize for prose. Publications include The Worcester Review, Sugar House Review (poem mentioned at newpages.com), Stirring's Steamiest Six, gargoyle, Berkeley Fiction Review, Editor's Pick for prose at Green Silk Journal, chaparral, Pedestal, ditch, Wilderness House Literary Review, decomp, Contemporary American Voices, featured poet at Up the Staircase Quarterly, Rain, Poetry & Disaster Society, Pedestal, DMQ, carte blanche, Oranges & Sardines, sundog , Melusine. Latest: Writing in a Woman’s Voice, 13 Myna Birds, Little Rose Magazine, isthmus, The Seventh Wave, Jewish Website, Scarlet Leaf Review, Red Wolf Journal. She performed off off Broadway, studied at Circle in the Square and with Gene Frankel. She graduated from The New School.