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.
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.
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.