In any legal dispute there are two named parties. Flat sides on the blade of versus, stripped open like an impossible eyelid. But what if the victim is neither party, if she stands outside the blade and makes no sound, taking on all of her small boats? Because I am thinking of a little girl I didn’t know, once a girl, but now a dead woman I knew, just a bit, and the sweet things about her being alive: lemon berry shortbread and the backs of knees, raw dates, the thickest of milk and rage. I am still watching her tiny body gloss away. She the victim of someone else’s buckshot orbit. Who is responsible, as in: who answers for this? Something happens to the sweet things. Warnings come like parades of geraniums— indistinguishable from the last, but beyond beautiful. Thank you for this warning, we say. We look down into the violence of the votive, with its sticky red head. It’s what you might call a good suit. It dangles like a vine—no, it looms— at the end of each sentence. Nothing is arranged. The day is short but never ends, only folds in, over. The rooster’s queasy crow starts early and sickles, and sickles. It’s not the boot, but the hands that make the boot.
Jocasta, As I Hope She Wore It
—Martha Graham, presenting her costume for Oedipus Rex
What could she say? You tried to find her anger here, split her pelvis for an umbilical thrill. You tried to remake her, but she refused, with her black candle eyes, to look into the dank rot of your spring. It takes some time to roil, but when it does, the yard pivots— foil-green flies scatter from their happy, dog shit homes. There must be an aphorism here about thunder as discipline, how its roll and hone engraves from inside. Even Queen Elizabeth once remade herself a virgin in this soggy, pink light. Because this I know: that even evil men die. It’s constitutional. It’s the law. These are our days of pardon, but do not treat them with any delicacy. There are tufts of beauty on the earth, but the earth is ugly, and will not last.
Gale Marie Thompson is the author of Helen or My Hunger (YesYes Books, 2020), Soldier On (Tupelo Press, 2015), and two chapbooks. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Tin House Online, The Adroit Journal, jubilat, BOAAT, and Crazyhorse, among others. She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. She is the founding editor of Jellyfish Poetry and co-host of the arts advice podcast Now That We’re Friends. She lives in the mountains of North Georgia, where she directs the Creative Writing program at Young Harris College.