Winter 2009 - THE POTOMAC

Three Poems
   Maggie Ethridge

rabbit girls

she was the feminine i fatted,
i crowned her and danced round
her perfect small breasts, drunken
child- we were only five together,

her locks long, gloss floss down
the small of her back bracken
where his salt, i know now, had
broken the seal, the royal

she was a marvel, he saw that,
marvelous and new
something new is irresistible
for addicts, collectors and

she told me at Christian Camp.
we had been bussed there,
abuse of drugs and older boys,
also we smoked cigarettes, gave

we were bad and children in bed.
he didn’t mind, that was the point,
she was new and wrapped new
dressed in eighties denim shorts,
tube tops.

it was Texas every summer
where she prisoned and played.
i languished at home
we came back and sacked a neighbors

no one saw us. she was queen,
she was my best, my girl heart
since i was five years old,
i pulled her hair in kindergarten,

seven years old was beginning
the broken crocus, the tilted bloom
already dropping petals,
we took our underwear down, simply

waiting for Horrible Horrible Yes.
paranormal, yes, this word is for
the unstoppable pull of horrors
lain around our houses like broken

the May Queen or Dancing Queen
or Princess, i loved her freckles
like mine, her small nose, like mine,
her blue eyes, like mine- we were not

we were always sisters
at seventeen, unruly mouths
in the same secret lisp
the same secrets turned our tongues

i held her long rose fingers
in my hand very much, for years,
i kept her trembling rabbit body
long limb freckles, burrow together,

long clean running limbs
hung up in fang wire, hunters trap
i remember her eyes all these years,
her long fingers in my hand as we

famous characters from literature

the cherry wood dresser
open mouthed, one, two, three
eyes blinking as i stole his
books, philosophy and fictionalized
sex, forgiveness- redemption:
he would believe this could be his,
after the dashboard broke his fist
and our hearts broke on his rack.
he would believe this could be his,
after china faced children lay in pieces
intellect glue could not put them back.
the wolf eye in the blood-parted lamb
staring me down fifteen, sixteen,
(have i made it? am i alive?)
he read words into fires
lit for his lies to survive
where all sins were exalted in ink
and all drama was another story
nothing stained thus, would sink.

if he had read women?
he might have known:
the sweat pickled mustache
would haunt me for a lifetime;
a woman would never forget
its bristly insistence and bulldog
jaws a-grip on the family jugular,
our heartbeats vast, enormous,
tilling underneath soil quieter-
simple nighttime sobbing extinguished
with the sunset, in dark trees
that absorb sound, and children.
and his metered, saddened voice
again, again, again
the piano played maudlin.
the art he hung in my room
'if i can imagine it/i can achieve it'
i knew what this meant for him
how it erased our sinkhole eyes
our hands like roots to the sky
nothing about dreams for children
just an adult assertion of blamelessness.
quoting Proust and Camus
to a child he held like a rabbit
flung across the cigar stench
of his stained hunter's jacket.

we three ladies for Miller’s
blessed sexual ecstasy, whores
for literature, Kerouac’s traveling
sluts, Updike’s ridiculous shrews,
Lawrence’s fawns for he-men,
Hemingway’s drunken spit
another whore for literature,
my father’s three women.
one redheaded wife, beautiful,
scarred, two blonde blue-eyed
girls for scarring, the perfect
eclipse for his self-pitying brows
dipping again and again this loop.
not human beings but focus group.
seen through his ‘artistic’ lens
his bullshit pretensions
of writing, study, passion.
all fevered Munchausen
and a thousand seeds planted
dead before they split free
a novel made of madness
what other kind could there be?
his dark hair, large hands,
delicate beautiful writing!
snake in the grass with pen in hand
writing writing ampersand-
oh but- he did not predict
this Daughter would too, be bitten.
you cannot bring me back father.
what was, has been Written.


this would have been a summer garden
full of wildflowers, kittens, round daisy faces.
steal worm-meal, callum gut fish,
the lawnmower spins it's high whining teeth-
you never should have done it.
one fling of seed across the soil
my hand sweats oil and water.
a rash of ladybugs erupt across my face,
i am possessed with ants
each one plucked like a tack
stuck hard and black in your outstretched arm.
i bloom like a tumor in your hanger breast,
cavity of dried milk duct, useless tit.
i suckle like a badly bloomed baby
hungry at the swollen root, a lust bug,
the shard stinger of yellow-jacket
pierces your pupil.
you dilate on the face of sun,
i hold your eyes open until you are

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