Autostrada of the Lakes
Sometime before I received numerous moving violations
from wide-shouldered cops wearing reflective sunglasses
on the Autostrada of the Lakes –
or spent time scheming as to how I could collect
SSI disability without deafening or impaling myself –
and before I had nursed my firstborn
on snow-capped and capitulating breasts,
I had slept with five different men, from five different continents.
Do you imagine a glue-sniffing addicted-girl asleep on a bus station bench?
Or a long-skirted tambourine-shaking Hare Krishna devotee?
Or just a femme moyen sensuel who stole money
from her senile aunt for the journey?
And pledged to return when either her forehead
sunburned into the near-ecstasy of disfigurement
or the statute of limitations for her thievery expired.
Vanished and banished count as near-cousins in any coup.
None of the five men shared the same name,
yet all their names began with crushing consonants –
and the sibilant sound of a repeating rifle
aimed at herds of galloping horses.
None of the men loved their mothers,
so they only smiled when singeing the wings of insects.
I am told there were only two subjects in the Renaissance:
God and the fickleness of women.
And I too am being questioned. Submit to the
black sounds, said Lorca. Questioned as to whether
or not I can sleep in a state of starkness, with only
a kerosene lamp and an armless puppet as company.
Questioned as to whether or not I can
remain in one place long enough
to have my toe nails clipped or
to let anyone love me.
They all loved their mothers,
so they each wailed when I left.
Like the little boy in Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna
who cried each time his mother took him off
her lap and handed him back to the wet nurse
as soon as she was done posing for the painter.
And yes, each man had a flowered terrace.
Some sat and watched the sunset.
And yes, they all made sounds in the late afternoon,
that predate any alphabet.
For the exquisite peacock on your business card.
For the tea and ghee-buttered toast you deliver to me in bed.
My sickness is that of grasping and aversion;
it circles like an ailing white crane above my lungs.
Thank you for not spanking me for coloring outside of the lines.
And for fostering my illusion that love
can survive a plummet down the side of a mountain.
Thank you for not laughing at me as I drove away
in a baby-blue van with bald tires
and three men all wearing papier-mâché masks.
Thank you for the cooing sounds of the mourning dove.
They say the melancholic birds are monogamous,
which makes their sadness even more confusing.
The borders between birds and us are not real.
Just like any curtain can be pulled back
and any glue can un-adhere.
So, let’s go listen to Mariachi music Saturday night.
And each time prostrate on the ground in gratitude
to the animal before eating it.
Thank the unknown sheep as we thank the Unknown Soldier.
Thank the molecules that make morphine.
Starry-eyed and purring.
Thank you for polishing your shoes for the wedding.
Thank you for hanging the paintings of the horses on my walls.
For letting me go to the Shiva temple alone,
though I thought a lot about you while I was there
and again later when I saw the dirt on the bottoms of my feet.
Thank you for the black hyacinthine in your hand
and for being a strong carrier of stones.
For not making too much of how easily I cry.
For being my unsparing destroyer.
Joanne Dominique Dwyer’s book of poems is Belle Laide published by Sarabande Books. Dwyer holds an MFA from Warren Wilson Program for Writers and is a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Award. She lives in Northern New Mexico and works with people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia through the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project and also works with teens and poetry through the Witter Bynner Foundation.