8.10 / October 2013 :: Queer 4

Three Poems

A Tanager

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His flock of hand nestles into my cherry blossom,
I quake, tremble, bleed

into white sheets

an ace of hearts,
     a sunrise,
          a bottle cap crown of fire brick paint on primer in the room where I met
A pair of chapped lips,
     my father’s cigarette and its forgotten cherry,
          a cardinal singing in snow.
A revision mark,
     a hyperphosphatemia wound,
          a drunk brother lying in a crosswalk, red coat snagged on his tipped-over
          wheelchair, one wheel still spinning like an abandoned merry-go-round.
A gift my mother gave me or father gave me,
     a nose with unwrapped crimson bows.
A beaded tulip medallion,
     a maroon prom dress I wore in the upstairs closet praying someday I could be a
     prom queen.
a cedar ricing stick bundled in red fabric softening the blow as it beats the
An ace of diamonds,
     a letter with a split wax seal,
          a rumbling in a silver birch–

a tanager, quivering.


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The only Angel I’ve met
     smoked crack with my mother in the bathroom.
          O, how their brains grew wings
               and they flew from bar to bar.

Another weekend visit where I’m ditched for a quick fix,
     a quick fuck, and a two-day drinking binge.

But at least my mother had cable.
     And I had control of the remote.

Sometimes I think angels look like vodka bottles
     slightly frosted—

     a lace hoop skirt I put on when I need to find solace.

Sunday morning is a room full of empty white robes,
     a choir of angels rattling across the hardwood floor.
          My mother face down and snoring in her waterbed,
no Angel in sight,

just an empty body
     about to pray to the porcelain god
and a child
     drunk in a dress in the living room
          praying for a fairy godmother,
               a pair of silk wings,
                    a new mother, sober–

I am a child praying for his own angel
     or my own man named Angelo
          to take me away from this empty apartment,
          to wrap his wings around me and say
               Baby, I wanna fuck you

But real angels don’t come in brown skin
     and Angelo will have brown skin and a Spanish accent.

Angels come in vodka bottles.
     White-frosted and fragile seraphim
          shattering in the bedroom.

I’ll sweep up the tiny shards of wings next weekend.

How we survived the war

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     for Sheryl

We survived the war by
playing “house.” Little Sister, you are the Rhoda and I am the Mary.
Dressing up in mother’s yellow prom dress and hiding in the closet.
Learning how to sleep with mice.

Playing “house,” little sister is the Rhoda, I, the Mary
learning to lust at dawn with a telephone and partyline.
Learning to sleep with mice.
Calling 911, then lying about the drums.

Learning to lust with a telephone and partyline,
Enveloping a fist.
Calling 911, and then lying about calling 911.
Me, teaching you what I thought a relationship felt like: intimate war:

enveloping a fist.
Watching Grease 2 and singing I want a cool rider, a coo coo coo cool rider.
We survived the war by
dressing up as our mother and hiding in the closet.

We survived the war by
playing “house.” You were the Rhoda and I was the Mary,
dressing up in mother’s prom dresses and prom queen crown while hiding in the closet.
Learning how to sleep with mice

while playing in our jaundiced house, little sister, I tell you I am a Mary.
My back on wood floor beneath dining room table, a telephone and partyline
hand in hand with sleeping mice.
Calling 911:

lusting for men in uniform on a telephone. Is this a partyline?
Enveloped in fists,
calling 911, I lied and told them “Everything is fine”
teaching you what I thought a relationship felt like–

a fist.
Humming under my breath If you ever wanna know, what I want in a guy
to survive a war
dress up in yellow, hide in the closet.

In order to survive a war
play “house.”
Dress up in prom dresses
and learn to sleep with mice.

Play house, but never be in the house
when calling a partyline on your parent’s telephone line.
Let the mice sleep
before calling 911.

Or lust on the phone
with a fist
while calling 911 and
Tell them “This is what our relationship feels like:

without Grease”
But we survived, little sister, we survived the war.
Thank god for redresses, prom dresses and our imaginated house.

b: william bearhart lives in Wisconsin where he works and writes poetry. He's an MFA candidate in the Lo Rez program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a direct descendant of the St Croix Chippewa of Wisconsin. His work appears in various places both online and in print.
8.10 / October 2013 :: Queer 4