What Did It Give You?
I’m sorry, Veruca, for all your sorrows—
One foot in the gutter and the other
in a state of abject horror.
Your miseries are worse than mine.
Bless us, oh Lord, for our sins.
They are many, and in quick succession.
She loves me, she loves me not—
If you pick the flower before it’s ripened,
you’ll never know the answer.
The prediction will be false,
by which I mean to say the love is doomed.
There will be no star-crossing,
no genuflecting before the altar,
no shared blood and sweat and shit.
The friends will not become the lovers
and we will never get to see them kiss
inside the car, on the balcony, or in the rain.
There will be no question of their death,
gruesome and separate, inside the ship,
casualties to a run-in with a scrap of
solid, liquid, gas, a blunted sharp object,
an axe, an earthquake, an iceberg.
The Lord works in mysterious ways, Veruca,
and we are all waiting to see how.
I had my palms read by a real witch.
You could tell by the way the light skirted her face,
how she held herself up as though by a wire,
her eyes seeking contact with mine to deliver:
I will die by fire, but is that a bullet or a flame?
Method unclear, try again tomorrow, blink and
it was only a magic ball, only tarot, only Ouija.
Your pets are safe and sleeping in their beds,
never had a bad day in their lives.
Your stolen land is fine, just fine,
no undead bodies rising from fallow earth
to terrorize the pākehā, the misogynists, the bigots.
I will check again in the morning,
hoping for change, a single finger
poking out from a crack in the rockface—
And in the morning, wake to find
your pictures turned to face the walls.
It isn’t enough, dear, sweet Veruca,
to merely rinse the plates before filing them
in the cabinet below the stairs for infection.
What to expect before the inspection
is foretold by the inevitability of the event.
And slowly the trees bend but never break.
The soft-bottomed ghost visits you every night,
sharpening his claws on your chest,
revealing anxious thoughts in thin cries and whispers.
It is better not to stir, to feign paralysis
in avoidance of the real unholy demons
whose arms envelope—
Close your eyes. When you open them, relax.
There will be a spouse. There will be a house.
Everything else is sub liminal, below the surface,
holding your face still in a pool of water.
The way the water measures you—
Divides the body in half, above and below.
No percentages, just yes and no, right and wrong.
The wrong body is not buoyant,
cannot rest at the surface, falls quickly to the bottom
as though pulled by stones sewn into the fabric
to avoid the chance for panic, a changed mind,
regret of the inevitable woosh of blood,
the lack of sound sought, thwarted—
Even underwater, the organs sing.
No such thing as a happy death.
A pet dies and then, what?
A replacement scrap of fur to cuddle,
a new warm body to love and neglect.
Easier than a woman, more satisfying than a man—
Less frustrating, easier to forgive
with a soft pat, a gentle hug, no unsafe words
just a wet mouth hovering in the night.
What did it give you in the end, Veruca?
A language, a companion, a purpose.
A sequence of events to map a timeline,
to drag and snap in place—
I have been here before, in this moment,
but it is new to you, we are sure of it,
and that is what makes it different.
That is what keeps us apart,
from sharing one brain, one single epidermis,
one perspective on the witnessed events—
The scaffolding that grows around us
like a cocoon or a sarcophagus,
and us peering out between the layers
trying to make sense of it all.
The Threat of an Ugly Woman
A loud exhalation of air
and the body is ready for morning,
heart beating in her throat
fast and certain, feet tingling,
scalp sweating into the pillow.
Wake and walk,
keep the body moving at all costs,
entertain the possibility of lymphatic circulation.
She sheds her clothes on the pebbles,
trips on uncertain ankles into the ocean,
the slow movement of waves
beating on and on and on
against the shore.
she feels the pressure
and the weightlessness
opens her eyes
and lets the filtered light,
the murky water, in.
Her body moves
in rhythm with the tides,
toes skimming the sand,
body caught in the glycerin,
a jelly mold of a woman.
On the exhale,
she lifts slowly from the sea bed.
The ache tugs at her lungs
but she stays down
and she stays down
and she stays down.
Carolyn DeCarlo is a queer writer living in Aro Valley, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, with seven other mammals. She runs Food Court Books and We Are Babies Press with her partner Jackson Nieuwland. Her chapbook-length collection ‘Winter Swimmers’ was featured in AUP New Poets 5. She also co-wrote the chapbook BOUND: an ode to falling in love (Compound Press 2014).