Letters to the Bat by Rebecca Lu Kiernan
Letters To the Bat by Rebecca Lu Kiernan My Hatred for You My hatred for you is tie-dyed With burnt edges in tangerine-black. It smells like volcano ash, Bourbon spilled on sweaty sheets, And kerosene dripping on withering violets. It tastes like stale gingerbread, Raw onions and ruined olives. It sounds like a lightning struck branch breaking After shaky months of amnesia. It looks like traffic lights Through the black sack With which the kidnapper Just covered your head. It feels like the tail wag of the dog Forgiving his abandoner On the cold cement floor of the pound.
Mercy lips in chapped neon tangerine snagged red fishnet stockings nipples glittering gold he pays a girl to dance like love grips his bourbon and seven as if it is the combination lock to the portal of the past and he could unwreck his unrecognizable self the hungry dog dances at the clink of its bowl being filled let's call that love too a creature with no options like the fishnet girl who sometimes gives away sex for free because it feels like love she goes unbitten it would be cruel to render such a life immortal sometimes even a vampire finds a molecule of mercy
The Tiger Has Come to Town He lives in tents, trailers, abandoned taxis. He eats tarantulas, tacos, tongues. He loves the tango, tektite jewelry, Tumbleweed, tearjerkers and trolleys. He is telepathic, Tremulous during storms, Tolerable as a house guest, Tiptoeing in his torn, bloodstained robe With morning coffee. He is terrified Of turbulence on airplanes, tunnels, The Taliban and trench mouth. The tiger has come to town. He lays out a shell game on the table. A time travel device, a ticking bomb, A secret I can never tell. The choice is impossible. I take them all. Each in their own chapter.
Fire-swept I will be in Phoenix for a week. I have left you a jar of locusts With unnerving human faces, A box of rusted keys That match erased doors Of all the fire-swept houses Of your regrettable dark lives. Just past the bluebells in the garden I have left you An organized hive of bees. The ether is in the garage Between the shovel and kerosene. (I started to kill them.) (Did not want to leave you without a project.) I have left five newborn kitten heads In the freezer next to the deer tongues. I have peppered love letters In spider webs and the snake nest. I buried a few in the yard. Don't save them for a rainy day. Read them While you can remember You were young and loved. Use them up as lullaby-es For your tumultuous upside-down dreams Just in case I do not return. Do not play with fire Or the ashes in the urn.
The Longest Month of the Year Deceased loves have been daring to visit me Inside my insomniac vigil. One brushed my breast with an orchid The blueblack of a bruise, Withered petals Breaking into dust against my flesh. One kissed my neck With grey, icy, smoke-tainted lips. Their unwelcome clairvoyance Cannot be denied. My ruined lover sleeps in our silky red sheets, Becoming increasingly transparent. When he leans into visibility And I can see At least The shape of what was once a man. He says loving me was his imagination, Recites a list of my character flaws. He cups his hands so tenderly (As he once held my face The day he said we were soulmates) And scoops up the silence of the floral room Slowly and without mercy Attempting to bury me alive. But I have been talking to scientists Who have charted out the approaching storm, The deceptive calmness of the sea, Sharks washing up on the shore, Birds of prey falling from the sky, The decibel of silence That keeps a man awake, shrieking.
Identity It blackens my heart to tell you The moment your wings shrivel up And you become a man Dropping down, stunned, Into the home we share. You stagger an hour Accepting what you are, My Darling, Dark, Disturbed and Hopeless Creature. I must protect you from the light. I keep my heart on Dim Hoping my disenchantment Does not get caught in my throat When I say those words to you Designed to numb your misery. Unalterable Path, Loveless Beast, The blueblack shriek of night Fits you like a custom made suit. If I wished to hurt you I would reveal You chose this life. You were not born to it. But, who else would you be? Add up the hours, the days, the months, The little deaths that went unmarked. End it not for me.
13 Step Recovery This blurry sheet of rain won't stop. It knows. It could pummel for eternity And never wash this street clean Of the words that fell On the bent blue orchids, wolfkiss lilies, the orange grove. The ice paralyzes everything. If spring ever has the faith to rise, I hope the words unkind Did not kill the roots of flowers, The laughter of future hours, The neon feathered birds That trust enough to light On the recovering trees.
Coefficient Angels are coming to cripple your wings. It's not going to be a gang fight. It won't be violent. They will come in inexplicable tenderness and mercy. You will be rendered unconscious by their grace. When you wake Disheveled, stiff, flightless, You will have gazed into Their prescient eyes And felt their unwavering hands. This loss will be a fair exchange, Touched by the constant That is a measure Of the soul.
Bent Arrow There's a bee in my honey, Tarantula in my pumpkin soup, Rattlesnake in my Cheerios. I want one more breath before drowning, A kiss before the guillotine, Cup of violet tea before the train wreck. Pink lightning forks the Destin night sky. How to keep the Florida stars from breaking? Yesterday smells like octopus sushi After a day in the sidewalk sun, 201 wet cigarettes in a beer bottle. Judas takes his German Shepperd, Russ On an icy vacation to inhospitable Mars. The dog gets cat-scratch fever. Judas gets beaten up in bars. I do not want a kiss before the guillotine! I want to walk The kaleidoscopic orchid gardens Of Saint Roberts Monastery for the blind. I want to pluck dragon's head lily Rocket launch daisies , batwing heliotrope And moonlight chrysanthemums From the caution-posted forest And scan the willow bark with my fingers For an answer carved in Braille. I want to watch the monks build sandcastles And buy the hummingbird cake they baked And write your name On a request for intercessory prayer. Gotham is burning and no one can save it. Pow! Bang! Oomph! A comic book falls out of the trash. Stunningly beautiful women in cages. I don't worry so much why you bought it As I contemplate why you threw it away. The only ting that was true? The dog cries bourbon tears and floods the house Because no one is home when you are home. She eats the window sills, breaks down the fence, Gnaws down the orange tree. You stroll the aisles of Sears for tools To repair her destruction. She is helpless to repair yours. I would like to buy back a vowel, Solve the riddle of the tangled sheets. Quicksand is the scourge Of Bent Arrow Drive Killing slowly with every attempt to escape. Now you know how it feels to be eaten alive. There's a bee in my honey, a stinger in my tongue. My fault for dining at your silent table. Only you could blacken an angel.
Please Excuse My Absence from Myself Reality, what a symptom of withdrawl. Rain fire. Run wolf. Poison pill. Rock, paper, scissors, a slash of words. Rake the crippled flowers From the ice-glazed yard. The haunt of this house Is lifting its fingers. Seven bats Were just a confusion of crows. Nothing is exactly as it seems. Nor, is it the broken tooth Of a vampire's dream.
Impact Rocks There lingers a tektite statue Of an unlikely angel On the stained glass nightstand. She knows how easily worlds collide. Her parts were gathered From the strewnfield In the seventies. Her halo is the perfect ablation Of molten glass, Wings of shatter cone, Arms, hydrothermal selenite, Eyes, carved of shocked basement, Gown, impact breccia. Her lips and hands Are almost impercepibly darkened With the faint green of breccia-suevite. The scientist in me understands. Still, I need to know, Who has she kissed? What has she brushed With her dark fingertips?
Chain The stench will bring tears to your eyes When the surgeon chainsaws open The violet-black-green Of the ruined tree. He will gut the rotting belly And hack off a few sickened branches. He will shake his head, rub his chin, Surrendering to your mess. He will say you need a specialist. He will send a bill, Tell others what he witnessed in your yard But you will never hear from him Or anyone Again. And nothing will grow for miles.
Cutflower I bring tiger lilies To the grave of my beloved. I bring the night So inverted blue-black bats Can watch from the goddess willows. I bring an unexpected breeze So the bluebells and wolfkiss orchids And the dragon's head violets in the field Will shiver at their luck.
Supernumb You put hunger in the dog's bowl, Gum in the crematory urn, Kerosene in the birdbath. You turn on the water to start a fire. Sometimes I wonder if your dead mother Called you from the bathtub And whatever you said is what pushed her Over the edge And sketched The comic book character You have become, Supernumb.
Present Tense Something prowls unnamed Through the zig-zaggy city crowd And the moon-dressed emptiness Of the abandoned launch site, Through the festival music That vibrates in your teeth And the silence of the violet lake. Something stalks unnamed. It knows everything about me. It chuckles in the mirror. It knows what I will call it And when its time will Come.
In the News In world news that day Pakistan beat Bangladesh by 89 runs At Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur. Nokia shares plummeted to 6.55 euros, Lowest since '98. In Korolyov, just outside Moscow, The six man crew of the Mars500 Climaxed their 257 days Pent up in the mock spacecraft With a simulated landing On the red planet. The Russian Mission Control Center broadcasted live The faux spacewalk Of Alexander Smoleyevsky and Diego Urbina. The mission had a second agenda beyond the technical, The experiment of what the isolation of 250 days of flight, 30 Days of orbit, and the 240 days returning to Earth Would do to the psyche. Tiger Woods apologized For spitting on the green at Dubai. The producers of the 3 million dollar Bollywood film, "Dear Friend Hitler" launched a marketing blitz At the Berlin film festival. It seems they plan to lighten up the Holocaust. Four more bodies were recovered From the Shahalam Market fire trap. DNA testing to identify 3. The cell phone SIM card On the 4th body Divulged enough information to notify the family. Charlie Sheen told reporters he is ready To return to "Two and a Half Men" After his rehab break. In Florida news that day NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Announced the Stardust spacecraft's encounter With comet Tempel 1. At it's closest kiss of 112 miles It snapped 72 kaleidoscopic images. The Naples Daily News Reported an Immokalee woman was arrested For having sex in a house of "ill fame". According to the police blotter, Martha Torres de la Cruz Of the 800 block of West Main Street Performed the act in the west end of a trailer For a fee of twenty-three dollars. Thousands of sharks passed near Boca Raton's beaches En route to breeding grounds Without stopping for a bite. In local news, On the street of Bent Arrow, Mrs. Parker was trolling the bushes In a purple, bleach blotched moo moo, Her ferret having escaped for the third time. Jimmy was going door to door To find a ride to the craft shop where he works As his car was broken down again, And a man who had been secretly Sobbing in the shower that morning Thought about giving a woman One final kiss Before he went to work And she finished moving out of the house, But he knew he could not do it without breaking And he did not want to traumatize the dog Any further, So he looked at the floor and the walls and his hands When he said goodbye, Anywhere but her face, For fear some faint shade of affection would remain After he put so much energy Into being hated. Ah, the peace Of having absolutely nothing to lose.
What the Dog Saw Paw prints in sugar white sand, One way trip to the sea. She gathered her toys, The piece of the fence she chewed off, A pink sock she had hidden for months, And a strip of bark from the orange tree, Leaving them all in her duct-taped bed For some new dog who could take the trauma. She did not concern herself With abandoning him, Having seen how easily love can be erased. She closed her eyes And felt the water Fill her ears and lungs And remembered the days of walking in the sun, A woman singing in the shower And laughter too long ago.
The Abduction We never talk about the abduction. The heart-leaf yard has ears. Even in the pink candlelit hush of the bedroom We never gave it a name, What happened on that platinum table Under those ambivalent eyes, Through the calm, alien narrative voices. Paralysis, necessary to prevent injury. Anesthesia, merciful. I wonder what the hell kind of world They came from, That it did not occur to their hive mind To render us amnesiac. Ah, it could only be A world to which They can never return. We hold this in common with Them.
The Bat's Reply I am the loneliest bat, Silvery blue-black As a strewnfield tektite. I ruin everything I kiss. I kiss everything I ruin. I can forget everything I said. I can remove the gown of an saint Without waking her, But I detest the tart blood Of the incorruptible. I fear she would adore me, Then I would have to chew out her eyes And she would leave me Broom-beaten and starved. But at least she would be blind To what I have always been. I held her hand in a dream. I almost was a man.
Haunt Couture My ghost wears crisp navy suits, Pink fishnet stockings with sensible shoes, Bell-bottom jeans with a tie-dyed halter top. She knows every way to skin a cat, And when it's better To wait out its attempt on a tenth life. Her kiss is the sound of dog feet Dancing in the heliotrope garden. She is the hand held at your deathbed. She is the silence that sirens you awake. She is the reason you leave fingerprint bruises. Why don't you let go?
Five, September I used to trust the universe. Now I interrogate suspects. I wear brass knuckles When I park in city garages, But I never look under the car for rapists. I once wore translucent red lingerie. Now I sleep in an Air Force tee-shirt. I would not drag your drunken body Out of a fire, But I might disrupt your sleep At the third or fourth spark. If time travel were not so dangerous, I would go back to Five September And behead you orchids at the door. I might sit by your mother's Claw-footed tub, Brew her a cup of tea, Have a kind word for her And keep her suicide From threading its dark seam So raggedly Through the unraveling cloak of your life.
00111111 This letter is an unbreakable spell. It is coded and the key is in your door. It is written in the stars, Carved in the tree that shades your grave. It is the lucky number 7. Cool and calm, Yet, reddens your face. It is the picnic day The dog sat in the potato salad. It is the angel who breaks down your car To remove you from the impending crash. It is love you never had. It is the little boy who got no attention And learned to need nothing at all, And taught everyone he touched Not to expect much. It is a kiss, a promise, a warning. It is time travel and you discover it. You are so unworthy of this gift, Groundhog Daying yourself to death In your bourbon-scented coma of a life.
The Story of Us I tried to convince a bat he was a man. I jammed his wings into pant-legs of blue jeans. He flopped around and fell off the couch. He panicked and twirled in circles And made it difficult to free him. I cooked spaghetti and insisted he eat it. Have you ever seen bat diarrhea? It is violet and endless And you can never fully remove The stench and the stain. I told him he was worthy of love But he was hanging upside down From the ceiling fan Blood-intoxicated, asleep. The saddest thing was watching him Attempt to operate The Lazy Boy recliner, Pushing the lever And popping up fast Trying to stretch open the apparatus. He flew back and forth Until he passed out. He cried so hard when I told him I finally could see A bat is a bat is a bat And it was ridiculous of me To coax him into the Light And whisper, Darling. He flew back into the abyss, Somewhat cocky At having been right all along, But the colony does not trust him anymore, And he can never fit into Either of his old worlds. The house will never sell... The stench and the stain. Who could live so haunted? Even we could not survive The Story of Us.
Dogbye Sometimes I left biscuits by your head When you were sleeping So you would learn your universe Was full of amazing surprises You didn't have to beg for. The day I moved out, I had to put you in the back yard. You kept getting under my feet. You stood vigilantly behind the glass door Unblinkingly witnessing Every suitcase I lugged away, Every box I sealed and carried. You watched my clothing disappear, Paintings, statues, photo albums. Your bark was high-pitched And steeped in hysteria. You started throwing your body against the door. One final check of the house. I removed my key and placed it on the table. I thought I could get away Without having to say my terrible dogbye. But, the agonized shriek of your voice, The sound of your seventy pounds hitting the glass. I slid the door open and knelt down. You slammed into my arms Curling your head over my shoulder. I said I loved you and would miss you. The worst part was the look of betrayal, The innocence draining from your face. Lulu, you have chewed my shoes, But I have walked in yours, Nine weeks slamming One hundred and thirty pounds Into doors.
Spilling My Purse at the Airport Umbrella that pops into Van Gogh's "Starry Night" On the outside, Edvard Munch's "The Scream" On the inside, Betty Boop bowling socks, Pink fishnet stockings, Blue sock monkey on a key chain With smiling red lips, Tiny ivory angel in a clear glass marble, Kangaroo shaped pill case With spring open pouch, Lipstick in "Faux Orgasm", Dead cobalt bat and white mouse For the snake, Wind-up toy tiger I stole from from my attorney's desk, Black cat flashlight that blinks S.O.S. in red, Photo booth strip of our first kiss, A tektite paperweight to remind me Some things are built to survive disaster, Four pairs of glasses: Hexagon shaped violet for when I want To look like a rock star, 1.5 readers, Gold rimmed Steve Maddens In deep sienna for serious sun, Giant black Prada Jackie O's For when I want to hide, The letter I did not leave the day I left him, Under-eye concealer For my recent darkening, Frayed hardback of Pushkin's poetry From the antiquarian, Pictures of Lulu in our old yard, Half of a chocolate hazelnut brownie, Torn tights from today's trapeze class, Disk with 201 photographs In case my house burns down, Teddy bear shaped pink post-it note With "DON'T DO IT!" Scrawled shakily in black Sharpie, Hair band with tiny silk daisies For days when I feel like giving up, Packet of tissues with imprinted candy hearts, Blueberry Chapstick, mini-size box of Count Chocula, Herbal tea forgiveness potion Of cinchona bark, goathoof, Arrow root and wild fennel, Crayon-written note on a parking ticket Found outside post office That reads, "What made Elmo snap?" "Was he tired of Big Bird's crap?", Three cell phones, three chargers, two cameras, One digital, one disposable, Waterproof to twelve feet under, Four new charms for my bracelet: Prehistoric dragonfly preserved in resin, A shark's tooth, leprechaun Smurf, The Coyote's Acme rocket, Map of the constellation, Pyxis Where we agreed to meet Elsewhen, Map of Draco as a backup plan In case he time-travels and kills himself on the trip. Time flies when you're on the run From the martyrs and magicians you have been To the Goddess you might become.
My Beloved Amateur Hummingbird cake can be dry, Must be slightly over-baked To dull the overbearing sweet, Best served warm With lemon-nutmeg butter drizzle. Bat-wing soup is a taste acquired. It doesn't seem to matter That you have eaten turtle ,alligator, eel, All of which taste like chicken If you hold your breath while chewing. I am telling you, My Beloved Amateur, You cannot purchase bat flesh. You have to do the killing Yourself. You cannot shoot Him Even with a silver bullet As the wing must remain intact, And let's face it, If your aim was that good You would not be Hellbent on this task. You cannot poison Him Without tainting yourself. He is too intelligent to be trapped And He can see you coming In the Dark. My Beloved Amateur, You must become a bat to catch one, Sitting immobile In His silent blue-black net of night. Trust me, He will find you And the only way to kill Him Is to love Him, Which is easy Because He is so pitiful, curious And affection-starved. Bat-wing soup is an acquired taste. How can I explain? It has notes of winter plum, Ether-soaked butterflies, The heartleaf vine in rainrot, Brown sugar, Candied apples with razors inside, And your soul, My Beloved Amateur, Your Soul.
Our Beautiful Li(f)e The day came Skittish, Turning red and violet leaves Over and over again. As if looking for an answer. The answer came Trembly As a lightning-struck branch Suffering a soft summer storm. The storm came Silent As the starving wolf Just before the kill. The kill came Sacred as a prayer Before dying. The dying will take me A little time. I keep seeing Our beautiful li(f)e Between the turning leaves And entangling vines.
Nobody's Hell Our nights are nobody's Hell. We are civil in our silent dinner, Clear the plates And feed the nervous dog Who cowers in her corner Doing the math of (x) minus laughter Plus a scowl times (y) Times muffled crying Equals (z). The neighbors are busy. They smile and wave Behind their tractors, rakes and brooms. No one asks and we don't tell. We used to play Boggle And make love And dream so big, so bright And trust the universe to get it right. Now we watch t.v. I mean we plan the shows Tighter than the president's schedule So we don't have a second to spare, That our eyes might accidentally collide To see the ugly empty stare We know is dancing there. We go to bed about thirty minutes apart. Whoever gets there first Pretends to be asleep When the other comes. I smell your hair. I feel your breath. I dream we are the couple Who moved into this house. I cannot recall How we killed them Or why, Or if we allowed them A trembly kiss goodbye. We impersonate them so well. Who are we kidding? Our nights are everybody's Hell.
The Bat's Shopping List 1 A firing squad to kill the empty hours. 2 Fractured cup to catch my share of rain. 3 Tektite amulet to protect me from her powers. 4 Surgical tape to fix my broken wing. 5 Lemon peel to erase the scent of her skin. 6 Clove to dismantle the taste of her kiss. 7 Willow bark to prosthesize her amputated limbs. 8 White noise device to drown the laughter I miss. 9 Time travel machine to prevent my offense. 10 Proof of my existence.
Friend nowhere, the answer sigh soft comic book kiss pink cotton candy funnel cake dream carnival deceit opening in kaleidoscopic hues like a hybrid bat's breath/cat-scratch orchid in flickering funeral light elsewhen ever I called you friend * All poems (c) copyright 2011 Rebecca Lu Kiernan
Rebecca Lu Kiernan has published in MS MAGAZINE, ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION, NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW and numerous books and magazines in the United States and Australia. She was nominated for the Rhysling Award for her seductive cautionary tale, "When a Snake Bites You In the Ass". She hosts "The Eternal Poem Project" on whattodowhenhellbreaksloose.blogspot.com "Letters to the Bat" is her latest poetry series. Her published collections include "Rummy Park", "Jepatio Street" and "An Unkindness of Ravens".
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