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Alexandra Teague

At 14, I Would Have Traded Adulthood for a Role in CATS

because it was 1988, and fur made of legwarmers

was a new kind of animal

that could only be named by singing;

that I could stretch over my own dumb skin until

I shimmered and clawed. My unitard: the holy unity

of mind, body, better body. The stagelights

yowling for my beauty as I belted out a tragic past

of alleys, moonlight, magic: all of it

made up. There was only the present: the definition

of enlightenment. Now and another now

each night. A meow transformed into transcendence.

Gold eyes against darkness, someone to feed me

from a bowl that said: You were always this

creature—the ugliest tufts

of insecurity stitched into a perfect suit of self.

Never the audience, with its strange sad

costumes; underage girls with t-shirts for beer

they imagined as sunlight; real

memories; Arkansas towns holding paper-mill stench

between pine trees; a boy in a field; spine-scraping grass

and cicadas loudly hatching from dirt, singing

that song without words.

Sideshow: Spidora

Just look at how her sweet bobbed head

floats above the web; how she spins out of air

eight legs lanky as shadows. Step right up, Sir:

meet the girl with the beautiful face, the dread

body of a spider. Step right up for her smile,

her pout: kiss-me-quick-get-me-out. Posed

dark-eyed as a sunflower on a doily. Don’t close

your eyes. She’s the real prize. The widow-child

waiting captive and wild: nightmare and night-

gown lace. Come closer and you’ll understand her

seven silks, her venom milk. Why should you care

if it’s only sleight of mirrors and rope and lights?

What else is hope? This girl living in the tangles

of herself. Victim or vice? Sir, you choose the angle.

End Times

It’s why God invented abstract art:

so we’d have a way of imagining—

that torn-open pink that’s stormcloud and caution line and nowhere

we’ve been yet. Japanese brushstrokes

meet Hiroshima meet Pandora’s

Black Friday salesbox, all its curling

ribbon, pretty wrapping. We opened it. We knelt there laughing at the ____.

I was joking about God. I’m serious

about how it feels to watch the world

unravel. At the science museum, walls

of glaciers photographed before & after. Like perfect weightloss ads. It’s

irreversible. This going-on-living. Rain

again in Texas; my ex-husband texting

each day’s weather, new paintings. Crosses these days instead of splashes.

This is all foretold, he texts, in Revelation. U can

read it. He knows the statistics on suicide

among the bipolar; he’s winning. God

may be his new abstraction. Triangles may be a beam from heaven. Sunny.

Strangely warm for Nov. I’ve quit saying Climate change

because he’ll just bring up horsemen. So

much art is titled Untitled for good reason.

Temperatures mean Hello, I’m alive. Like it’s neutral.

I’m the one with a car, too much flying. It’s cloudy today. There are squiggles

like confetti at New Years, fear sparkled up

under laughter, fraying ropes, an exploded sun. What do u think? he texts. Before

Nowhere near done.


Alexandra Teague is the author of Mortal Geography (Persea 2010), winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and 2010 California Book Award, and The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea, April 2015). The recipient of a Stegner Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the 2014 Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, Alexandra has been recently published in or has poems forthcoming in The Missouri Review, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. She is Assistant Professor of Poetry at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press.

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