for the Gypsy King
Your quip about the codpiece? Please.
Uncles on her father’s side –
firemen, snowplowers, roughly
aware of every dirty mind
a girl encounters – know the joke
and tell it better. What a kid
grows up with: low-throated crowing
drunk on Elvis, hints of a fix
in the seventh, the high romance
of Pretty Please Me, Electric Jade,
another C-note down and don’t cry
baby, we’ve always got the eighth,
roasted corn, a bag of buck-shot
rabbits, a dog named Muggins, beer.
Behind the house, abandoned dove-
cotes, pigeon shit and feathers seared
to dry rot. How could you expect
different from a railroad worker’s
daughter who believed she’s better,
who expertly worked her poker
face when the poorhouse smell of Pine-
Sol and boiled chicken fat hit
her at the door? She grew, she left
Schenectady, she tried to miss
the old-time aqueducts eroding
onto abandoned tracks. See now
how she steals words still wet in your
mouth – remora, ocarina –
tempting and glistening like jewels.
That’s what she wants, what she expects
from you: the glamour of elsewhere,
the luxury of intellect.
But what about you? The thieved from,
the one with fingers digging at
your tongue for something exquisite.
You’re no Pope. You don’t need this crap.
So she smiles, so she gestures,
and she tries to get you to stay.
And what she recklessly offers
up: buckshot, dovecote, Elvis, jade.
I couldn’t decide
whether to write about
reversible hats or divorce
paperwork. Seeing how
it is four days before
the new year and
my son’s father
is how I now refer
to my husband and
for Christmas I received
a negligee from another
man and seeing how
once when we were dating
my husband changed my
blown out tire and I
latched on to that
kindness and use
its memory to feel
tender at times, like now,
and seeing how any one
of us could die soon
and my son uses his
reversible hat from Peru
as a nest for his stuffed
kitten named Silver,
who is, at this moment,
giving birth to five
babies and my son
is cooing into that hat
like the Earth’s
on it, I sometimes, like
now, wish things could be
Like the first unearthed bloodroot
or a black beast pacing the cattle fence – an omen.
Mama said a bird
in the hand isn’t safe
from the one who holds
it. A stumble can take
anyone down, wreck
what they treasure.
One man said where some see
chance, he sees decision. Not the day
I pulled the cat off the infant rabbit, its neck
wet and red but not yet fatal.
He means the day I left. He means the man
Salvation looks like a tree flush with stone fruit, skin bursting.
Salvation looks like a man on his knees at the foot of a mountain.
Anything can look like salvation if it is not behind you.
Mama said we lose
what we leave, but no
matter. We lose
what we hide away,
lose what we save
I search the underbrush for small
wounded animals. They are not
easy to find.
Michele Battiste is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Uprising (2014) and Ink for an Odd Cartography (2009), both published by Black Lawrence Press. She was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and is the author of five chapbooks including Left: Letters to Strangers (Grey Book Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Rumpus, Memorius, and Mid-American Review, among others. Michele has taught poetry writing workshops for Wichita State University, the Prison Arts Program in Hutchinson, KS, Gotham Writers’ Workshops, and the national writing program Teen Ink. She has received grants and awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, AWP, the Center for the American West, the Jerome Foundation, and the NY State Senate. She lives in Colorado where she raises funds for environmental conservation.