by July Westhale
You Can Lead a Horse to Water. Repeat.
"I want to say, you're good girls,
wanting to leave your names behind like that."
I'm a working girl, I'm a girlfriend experience.
I dance incurably damned on stage. I'll tell
you I love you more than the moon, you hang
the moon, I'll shoot the moon.
I'll say I adore you to the moon,
and back, the moon is your fault, I'm moony
over you. I'll say, point me to the moon,
and fly me to it. I'm over the moon.
The truth is I mist my panties with a spray bottle.
I rarely see the sky at night.
I've been ridden hard, and put away wet.
That thing about horses is false.
You can give them salt, and they will take it
willingly. They can't forsake salt.
They lick it until they blister, and then
they wear it proud, but secret, inside
To make a catcher, you must have a square.
You must have the same length of sides. You must
cut your rectangle into a shape like a window,
so it opens perfect. You could risk
everything. You could unfold a flap
and predict niceness. What do children know
These are not the future. These are not religion. These are entertainment.
Pick a number. Any number.
We’d set about to build a paper boat,
but our futures are more fascinating.
We pretend the duo paper is us, sister,
born six weeks apart– adopted twins,
winning the strangest gestation story ever told.
Besides, a cootie catcher could float.
A cootie catcher could be salvation to a locust,
or a June bug in distress at sea, our sea.
The sea is a muddied puddle, stretched shallow as a sandfish.
We fold our friends: the cootie catchers, the frogs,
the tulips, the schooners.
Who taught you origami, anyway?
Our town is leave-able.
Our uncle left that summer,
floating in an irrigation canal we all
fished in, a big bloat.
He’d been drunk, and dreaming
of carp. We ate the carp, carp is poor
folks’ food. We take communion
regularly. This is no different.
Dead Mom Reprise
"Oh, sometimes it is as if desire itself had been given form, and
acreage, and I'd been left for lost there"
Dead mom is many things, but always dead. Nothing
kills a conversation like a dead mom. What are you,
dead mom? Whatever
is left of you is what I pray to. Dead mom makes lunches.
Dead mom is the man on the corner with two cigarettes. Dead
mom wanders the hallways at night, eating pickles from a jar.
I call out for you by your rightful name, dead mom, every time
you die. Dead mom, you die every day. You move, and bury yourself
next to me. Dead mom, you would sleep if you could, but dead moms don’t
sleep, they burn. Dead mom, I eat ashes to know what heaven does
to the body. Nobody reads poetry, especially not dead moms,
but dead moms hand out tickets at theaters, they bag groceries, they turn
their heads just so, so in the right light they reflect off of everything.
The marquee is always showing dead mom. Let me live, dead mom.
Forget roses. Forget forget-me-nots. Forget bulbs that wait forever
to finally shoot into recognition months later. Plant rows and rows
of dead mom, because it will seed like crazy, and you will never be able to kill it.
July Westhale is poet, writer, and activist. She was a finalist for a Creative Writing Fulbright to Chile, and has been awarded grants and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, the Lambda Literary Foundation, Sewanee, Napa Valley, Tin House, and Bread Loaf. Her poetry has most recently been published in AGNI, Adrienne, burntdistrict, Eleven Eleven, Sugar Mule, The East Bay Review, 580 Split, Quarterly West, and PRISM International. She has an MFA in Poetry from Lesley University. She was the 2014 Tomales Bay Poetry Fellow, and is the 2015 Poet in Residence at the Dickinson House in Dienze, Belgium.