We played kalookie until sunup in Juarez
after discarding the slot machines
and eating sliced bananas and strawberries.
The air had thickened, suffocating us
as I ogled my long-legged, big-breasted
partner, Mexico Jones, nicknamed Crocodile
by card sharps frightened of a reputation
for eating men whole and spitting them out
like cherry pits. A Luger stuck in jean-shorts
and a machete hugging her left hip, she
leered at the slimy players that her eyes
sterilized with their hue of glue. Wallets
emptied quicker than an estate sale’s bookcase.
One by one, egos crushed, they crawled
out of the lantern-lit cage, cramped and humped,
slaves of their stiff meat. For some reason burning
Mexico’s comic curiosity, I was immune to the heat
she generated, smelled that cascading black hair
and imagined ripened coconut, touching it
with shipwrecked strokes. I memorized cards
and whistled before she strutted sitting still
to win every hand. One bold blade threatened
to slit our throats before Mexico lugered him
in the heart. That was the final straw: I heard
she married a mark, a sweat-shirted stockbroker
who jogged in the outskirts of Albuquerque. Hah!
THE ABYSS OF HER
My mustache a brown horizontal icicle,
I, the optimist, listen to the ripple of this
underground river’s waves, the spruce’s
silence, and rejoice you’ve escaped
the warpaths of your mother’s calumnies.
She denied she was Sioux, preferred
to call herself French as she chased us
around the kitchen table, butcher knife
in each hand. In a buckskin lacrosse
uniform with a purity only you
could muster, you refused to ignore
my proposal, stumbling over the cot
after she struggled to drown you
in the sink. I threw a roundhouse at her
face of hate before she dropped on the dirt
floor, and now we’re together, no longer spied
upon or assaulted with pewter frying pans
and kettles, no longer fearing mental torture.
We’ll guide ourselves to the altar,
offer prayers, me in stolen wingtips,
you in your laced veil, and agree to wrap
the other with a new tapestry. I’ll stroke
your long black hair, you’ll guide us
past this hinterland’s gates, and we’ll
no longer trade slingshots for quill or ribbons
for turtle soup—we’re each other’s relic,
we’ve escaped the abyss of her.
HE NEVER FORGAVE HIS FACE
Breton craved a cheeseburger flambé.
I warned him it’d be a mess, an accident
of anarchy waiting to destroy.
He insisted, invited a videographer
to document the event. India Ink, his sister
of cottonsack dresses, screeched, This stunt
belongs in the lexicon of stupidity! She
lit the match, flames flared, enveloping
blindfolded Breton in orange and blue fire.
The cheeseburger dead, Breton almost.
The avant-garde shunned him, his
reputation as a connoisseur of insanity
demolished. Breton existed by an interstate
embankment, created torture tunes for
a speed metal band, Fiberglass Boot
Ditch. He became rich, pursued
fame for years, but he never forgave his
face: children screamed, women
vomited. Finished as a culture soldier,
he knew his failure was fulfilled. One
complaint, he said, pouring India Ink
and me a pitcher of dark ale at Look Then
Leap, his new bar. He wiped the counter.
You and India Ink should have closed me
down. Glaring at him, I yelled, Fuck you,
Breton! Go jump off the bridge. India
Ink and I staggered out, and Breton
followed my advice two hours later.