In Love With Ten

Wearing electric pink lip dye,
she slips the car into auto-pilot
and rummages
through her purse
while the vehicle
sweeps through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Did I forget my O-mask?
No. Thank gods.
It’s under the seat.

The car turns too quickly
where the old straw bends,
so she grabs the steering wheel
and pumps the breaks once,
then lets it glide.

Auto-pilot is a ten-dimensional bitch.

At the restaurant,
she sits in a booth aglow
with neon pink lights and Jinny,
who has recently gone hairless,
her tattooed skull oiled.

She taps on the menu screen
embedded in the tabletop.

Impossible Burger one or zed?

How about both? Jinny says.
You can have
whatever you desire.

I know, but sometimes
it would be nice to be told
what to eat.

Maybe if we lived
in the last millennium.

She selects Custom and
her order is accepted,
except she forgets to order
the special sauce.

Did I tell you Ten is coming?
Jinny says suddenly.

She doesn’t have time
to think of a response because
Ten slips into the seat next
to her.

This was a set-up.
Gods-damn you Jinny.

Ten’s shoulder brushes hers
and she bites her lip,
thanking the gods her
pink dye isn’t mood changing.

Ten is not shy.
No, definitely not.

She feels his hand on the inside
of her thigh while she
fumbles in her purse,
pretending to look for her O-mask.

No smog tonight, Ten says
as he curls a lock of her
hair around his finger.

I didn’t say it was okay
to touch me.

You’re not saying no.

She frowns and glares at
Jinny who wears a dirty smile.

Do we really need to wait?

No, she says.
Fuck it. Let’s go.

They get back into the car,
watching the remains of the city
streak by as they caress
the dark highway.

Lower the seats, she commands.

They fall prostrate.

His hands are on her now,
her tank top is off,
her O-mask forgotten,
their breath shallow.

His body clogs her mind
with memories of
how much she hates him
and loves him at the
same time.

Nothing but skin and sweat,
but the car jerks around a bend
and she topples off.

Ten laughs.
Where are we going?

10 hours inland.
She kisses him.

Where’s that? Chicago?

So am I your captive?

Indeed, Ten, you are.

When I Lived in the Desert

Once in a previous life,
I saw muslin drapes
billowing in a room
with white-washed walls
and wooden furniture
where a pitcher of water
sat on a stand
near the door.

There in that room
I lay dying
on a bed of
rough-hewn pillows
and thin sheets
that gathered at my ankles.

The curtains caught in the
the breeze and billowed
to and fro,
so that I could see the
cobalt sky and gray clouds
lined with golden sunlight
which spoke to me.

The clouds were sad
to hear of my
imminent departure,
and wished me well
in my next chapter,
for they had been
watching and guiding me
for many years.

This was quite unlike
the greedy stares
of my brothers who
surrounded my bedside,
staring down at me,
hands inside their robes,
hoods lowered,
words hushed,
faces featureless in my
fevered mind.

Traitors, all of them.

They did not carry
the Book
under the bleating sun
through the desert
in leather sandals
so worn that were it
not undignified
to have no shoes,
I would have left
them there in the
sea of sand.

My brothers did not
burn and peel,
nor feel
their tongue swell,
their mouth turn to plaster,
watch their ribs grow
in gnawing hunger,
only to stumble into
the Sacred City some
weeks later,
a worn rag of flesh.

They did not make
this Sacrifice.

Now, when I think of
the Book,
I see my hands turning its
thick pages that crack
with dryness under the sun.

The text is in a language
I do not understand,
but I know it speaks
the Truth,
which is Holy,
and a rarity
in any day.

My brothers,
these men who look
down at me dying,
like famished dogs
fighting over a carcass,
they only want my
place at the Temple
when I am gone.

And my heart
is blackened.

Before Wonderland

She’s like Alice before Wonderland
in a train car
just after she eats the cake
and we watch her grow
until she is too big to fit
through the door.

She’s Carroll’s prose
I am convinced
blonde hair
wearing in a flower dress
cut to fit her girlish figure and
a denim shirt tied around her waist.

Her head brushes the ceiling
of the swaying car
as she works her way
towards the back
where she hunches and leans
against the window.

The train hurtles through the tunnel
clicking and clacking
and I think
there is a Wonderland after all
but we’re a hare too big
to fit through the door.

Crow in Letters

“There’s a crow up there you see?” says the ferry man.

He points to the Erie Lackawanna sign in large, red and white letters above the dock. I jab my bike between the metal railing at the stern and give the handlebars a good shake to make sure they’re secure.

“What letter is he hiding in?” I say, squinting and looking up. I cannot find the crow.

“The R.” The ferry man shades his eyes with his hand. The river slops against the wooden pylons.

“Would be funny if he was in the C,” I say.

“Yeah.” The man chuckles.

“Or maybe he thinks he is a raven. That’s why he’s in the R.”

The ferry man’s eyes widen. “Oh, yes. But that could be bad. A very bad omen indeed.”

His mouth turns down in worry, and I mirror his frown. I should think before I speak. Who am I to darken this man’s day?

My knees wobbly, I slink onto the boat and take my seat amongst the passengers.

As the ferry pulls away from the dock, I look back up at the R, but still I do not see the crow.