Epic, part VI: They Were Shelved


They were shelved. But
doesn’t that in the end
mean preserved? Held for

an appropriate time rather than
cast like seed on rocky ground.
Cathy gave up hoping

which more than suited the others
whose joints required tools
long lost in toy boxes

long lost. Arthritic
they moved less
but became kinder

and maybe wiser
what with the waiter
using a dedicated scraper

to elegantly decrumb
the fresh cleared linen.
Now they could see

what had eluded them.
There had been an event
to which they had gone

at an appointed hour
and sat behind their name tent
and puzzled over an embarrassment of forks

and ate without knowing it snail
and listened to their life story
told in broad strokes

in watercolor.
Raised their glass
to having things in common

listened to anecdotes
lifted from National Public Radio
and claimed their cars from valets.

The quiet ride home,
the lights on in each cavernous room
only to walk through,

the talk of how flowers bring life
to life, and the puffy pillows,
satin as an old woman’s face

who has had several acid peels
and isn’t giving up,
and then sinking

back into themselves.
This is what life is about:
One thousand thread count sheets.

Amazing how real life is
lived only by the wealthy.
But each sighs in her sleep:

if there is life to live
best to live it in tribute
to those left behind

though all our words
end up the same place
atangle. Priced

by the pound.
So why waste them?
Cathy was back to her insipid self:

Let’s play some charades!

  Epic, part XI: Sherry fell to drink


Sherry fell to drink.
May to indecisiveness or permissiveness.
Georgia back to religion.

The rest toadied,
making them unstoppably
more abject daily.

Insane demands issued.
Chatty Cathy would smirk.
Then by some horrible miracle

the girls would muster gusto
or ingenuity enough
to give one a foot up

over the ivied brick wall
of human dignity
into that most secret garden

of power. How high
the ratings read. Cathy
nibbling dolphin fin

and carrying on on camera
about some cook show host
and how, by tomorrow,

he would be the buffet.

  Epic, part XIII: May decided to can the has-been circuit


May decided to can the has-been circuit.
Sam too.
They pled guilty.

And now tend sheep
in documentaries in Nova Scotia.
Mary Ellen sells seashells somewhere.

And Sherry dried out long enough
to expire miserable. Though not miserably
as feared. Triumph isn’t just

living through life. There’s an ingredient,
extra, not in the recipe, Cathy knew that.
It’s a matter of how long long is

and if it can be pinched closed
and cauterized. Cathy, amid trash,
lay back on her string’s ring

uncomfortable as it was.
Couldn’t she have been born
anorectic or to pee when pressed?

Why’d her name
have to so perfectly
fit the marquee?


Outtakes, ii: Their talents were heaped


Their talents were heaped
and hued as a royally commissioned
still life of the fruit of the realm.

I’d’ve wondered what
exactly was
in the chest

they draped over:
one reciting nursery rhymes,
one enhancing self-images

with vague affirmations.
One in oven mitts.
When I first saw Rope

I found it romantic
and hated Jimmy Stewart
for firing out the window

rather than at the murderous boys
who ought then to have
swooned dying on the chest

heaped as deer on a hood
and given one another
a look unclouded

with consequence. Cathy
had the idea
of champagne flutes

for one and all
and in this photo
the famous photographer took

on his way between whoring
his talent to the diamond industry
and dining with a rent boy

whom he’d give a modest
but designer ring,
so avant garde, however,

it couldn’t be worn. Only admired, but
which fit their three-evening-long
romance. Conceptual

like this photo:
he focused on the reflection
on one flute where

the girls are by Van Eyck
favored with the figures
and long foreheads

of the Dutch.


Outtakes, iii: Barb’s penchant for definition


Barb’s penchant for definition
left her prey to the regional.
She’d read the minor litrachers

for purities untackled
on floodlit fields;
unprotected conjectures

that seemed, though not tamed,
to come right up to her,
soft meaty mouth near-tickling

as it mopped the sugar cube
or apple or on occasion the muffin
from her palm. Twisted across the plain

her history included homicides
and concluded feuds, the frame
of the house she was born in

still stands against the palest
blue sky like it’s waiting
to be filled with concrete.

Some days the games
of the jeering prairie dogs
weary her, others

the old roadkill
in a hostile takeover,
make her love life.

Such treasons
of the imagination—
that she could

be on one side
just as well as
on the other

but wherever she was
she was stuck there
until some new formula

wiped out the traditional ways,
or corralled them back,
stamping mad as they inevitably would be.

The cell lost its signal.
Greasy smoke slid beside
sketchy vineyards.

The smell was almost chemical.
But what, Barb corrected Midge,


Outtakes, v: As one ought stand warned


As one ought stand warned
when someone says
I like you, I really do

so Ruby would have
been well-served
to hesitate between

the design and the construction
of her dream home.
The shape of a candy cane

in whose crook
a fountain spewed
water from the holes

in Billy the Kid’s vest
and sleeve. Half-built
she paced past

what would be the trophy room
the beer hall
the museum

and she ransacked
her heritage for what
she might have overlooked.

Fuck all did she forget?
Ah! she thought,
they could always

empty the fountain and hang game
to bleed dry from Billy’s arms
that reached only rib cage high

in attempted surrender.


Deleted Scenes, j: Superheroes were the worst


Superheroes were the worst.
They were either too re-
or too unrealistic.

The set a blue screen
and a floorfull
of reflective tape.

The latex outfit
didn’t breathe despite
the “mummy cover”

as they called it.
All red with
rat ears

Jojo felt
taken advantage of,

though she’d gross
on this one
while the arty film

about dolphins
would languish profitless.
Tuna had

replaced them this season
for favorite fish.
Red as coals

she’d been in
a terrible
foundry accident

part of FDR’s WPA
and come out smoldering
and Republican.

Her power was transforming
objects to meanings
and sometimes

meanings to people,
but they were always

well, frankly,
and never really got

the or any point across
and Jojo

understood this as
Vat Woman’s greatest message—
language fails

so why not
best it
by failing

as this superheroine’s

logic was,
fans took
a different message

that washed up,

nay, downright ugly,
could get famous

for being famous
and wash their red-
clad swaths

over tracts of snow white
where never
however much you’d hope

or they’d pay or pray,
however much an entire

mustered its collective
capital could they
not even in epics

or in the most tear-stained
women’s films
nor in realist political dramas

in none of them
across no span
of the visual field

would Jojo
or her like
leave footprints.


Deleted Scenes, k: Barb’s egg salad


Barb’s egg salad had the jags
squares and domes
common final thoughts of mormons.

And it seemed a shame
she chose—
what with the devoted

and treasured
cut-glass dishes—
not to devil them.

Of course, no one
noticed really,
blindfolded as they were

in protest
against lookism.
They’d decided

that sitting still
was not
fighting back enough

so to be truly
they took a handicap.

Mary Ellen drank
undiet soda

and was filled
with an absence
she’d only last

felt at her mother’s funeral
when she banged the rose
having tripped

on the fake grass
carpet round the grave,
down on the coffin

and nailed her siblings’
thorns, already placed,
into her forearm.

It was while
in a side room
plain as a high school

an assistant
smelling of surgery
cleaned and wrapped

her wrist
and looked
into her eyes

for thanks. She had none
and hated herself
for it. She avoided

the grave, didn’t dispute
the extortionate bill,
wouldn’t let herself

look full upon the wound
until, bandages entirely

and iodine
beside the point,
she saw

when she connected
the scabs:
The Big Dipper.

Jojo had
a wonderful time
here among the girls

but you’d never
since Cathy

told her
that all American culture
was calculated to

fuck women over,
so when they said,
“don’t frown

you’ll get frown lines,” you knew
it was precisely
not frowning

that brought them on.
So below her
luscious silk blindfold

Jojo frowned, forming
a near perfect

with little arrows
at each end
of her expression’s asymptotic reach.

And Tootles
whose eyes
were her best feature

this revolution

and failed.
It seemed
her sacrifice

was twice
the others’.
And right she was--

when Marge
cast off her sash
in interest

of distinguishing jams.
Detesting gooseberries
because they cannot be pronounced.

Her shocked gasp
broke the spell.
There was

no jam whatever
to choose from.
Also shocked,

in a halo round
Peg’s head
a hundred hornets

while all looked on

proving their point
quite elegantly

while Peg
had pressed upon her dark curls
a yellow shimmering crown.