It’s not the blood, it’s the separation, the part
of a whole left to crawl across the floor
looking for its body. It’s the foot
used as a doorstop, the arm holding up
a lampshade, the head in bed with the small man
who strokes its fine hair and whispers
love notes in its shriveling ear. It’s the storing
of limbs in the freezer, the old woman
rocking, humming and chewing a hand.
It’s the cries of men — no morphine, no arm.
the empty pant leg blowing in the wind,
the basket of parts. It’s the phantom tingling
below the joint and the rub of the stump
and its round, raw skin. It’s the grainy
video scream as the hooded captor saws
at the neck "Allah Akbar!” god is great.
It’s the 12-year-olds with machetes
crossing the Sudan, hacking. It’s the look
of shock on the decapitated face.
It’s the twitching.
It’s the girl losing some piece of herself right now
in an explosion, a rape, a gangrenous disease.
It’s the boy burying what’s left. It’s your cousin
being fitted for a plastic prosthetic,
picturing his lover caressing the stub.
It’s the author writing a best-selling thriller
about a killer who collects clits in a butterfly box,
the butcher who grinds fresh meat, the nanny
who pays good money for a soup bone.
They leap from hands, hot and jumpy,
looking for something with fur and big eyes,
something that can’t talk, or won’t —
the thrust of a child into oncoming traffic
to play chicken with the school bus.
Smitten with danger, we lick the drippings
of a Molotov cocktail, the wet smell
of burn, gas and rag of it. Smoke.
Set fire. Set fire to this dress of soiled peach.
Red is what we want. Freedom red.
Fight for freedom. It’s worth dying for,
especially if you win. And everyone
will say so as they salute and shoot
again, aiming at the sun, the fire
nuzzling up to the center like a bright pink whore,
brilliant in the shine of blister and skin.
Two shades shy of a venereal crisis,
lips swollen with the bruise of malevolence,
our wingspan is wide and the meltdown
gracious, as we near what will later be called
our big waxed death.
Still, there’s something small about it, hate.
How it lingers on the skin, sours the eggs,
makes us mouth words to ourselves alone
in our cars, slogans of god and country,
human/civil/animal rights, the small
lump in our throats as we tell the story,
the things we do with triggers
that make us big.
The Song She Knows
Wild, wild quiet. Trees and slim deer fondling grass,
lakes and soft dirt roads. Words like “dappling”
and “glimmer” seem rich, even useable. My laptop,
dim blue, looking for a leafy metaphor for broken,
a way to say I can’t forgive you that is lovely and wet.
The fish are swimming. The birds, nesting. Our daughter,
lifting leaves with a stick, chasing spiders, wonders
at the suspicious green as I close in on myself.
Grease and gravity. Glass heart eye. Cinder block sky.
I hate this — nature, the song — snapping twig/winged rise/
wooded rain/earthen birth. In the city — rust-belted,
bottomless — things die and god willing, stay dead.
How I Came To Love The Apocalypse
For Karen Tozzi-Colberg
Her house still smelled like ham
and her heart felt like sandpaper.
She painted something flowery and hot,
and hung it on her wall to remind her
of the lips she’d tasted, the drinks
she’d poured. She gave the painting
away because it spoke too loud
and then dreamed that John Cusack
stuck her vita on his refrigerator
because he wanted to know her.
She wanted to know him, too,
but the world was ending
and she needed to wash
her brushes, set the bugs free,
and introduce birth and death
so they’d recognize each other
when they met.
Leslie Anne Mcilroy won the 2001 Word Press Poetry Prize for her full-length collection Rare Space and the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Prize for her chapbook Gravel. She also took first place in the 1997 Chicago Literary Awards Competition judged by Gerald Stern. Her second full-length book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word Press in 2008. Leslie’s work appears in numerous publications including American Poetry: The Next Generation, Dogwood, The Emily Dickinson Award Anthology, The Mississippi Review, Nimrod International Journal of Prose & Poetry and Pearl. Leslie works as a copywriter in Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her daughter Silas, and writer/guitarist, Don Bertschman, with whom she performs her poetry.
The four poems published above originally appeared in Liquid Like This.