UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY

JENN GUTIERREZ

In Youth

They hoped you’d wrap yourself about the spine,
squeeze syllables from between your thighs
on Open-Call Night.
Disinterested in what it is like
to be a mother—drifting off mid-stanza,
to mentally practice their own manuscripts,
just as you came to the part about your role as wife.
Preferring the pants of your breath
against the coiled head of a mic
to your rendition of inherited family recipes.

That was not what they wiggled themselves
down into the first few rows to hear when they
first spotted your name on the yellow ledger pad
making its rounds, its lines quickly filling with
the names of tortured souls just pathetic enough
to hear themselves speak
in a room full of strangers.

Their turns up,
they’d peer out at you in ways
they would never have had the guts to do otherwise,
shielded behind that pseudonym of Art.

Once your outward features
began its task of wither,
they were more apt to listen,
but even now,
they still appreciate a good mix of nasty,
scattered auspiciously into a frisky line or two,
thinking it great fun
to hear an old woman
speak of such things.


Crotch Rockets

I am driving due West
toward the blue ridge monuments
of this state
fallen
against the backdrop of a
smoke gray haze

some 80 miles per hour
and I think—
I can’t imagine
what it might be like
on a bike

And then you are eight again
and I recognize your Spanish eyes
hold with fear
                the revving excitement
hold on
hold tight
to that black Harley cotton shirt
Inhale sweet scented smoke of plant
I remember it hummed and rattled
between unbroken
unspent secrets of back then

Like clouds on a heat mirage day
a figure emerges out of nowhere
whisks mother away—
while father was away
hush-hush
blend it now,
vroom-vroom

There’s that poem forever mingled
with page—a stain
while boyhood fantasies
imbed in your ever drowning dreams
full of ever-evil deeds
Like the machine itself
so married and seared
between the polarities
that
become you
even once
defined you

No freedom without pain
you see the scar
a red hot muffler
smoking her 18-year-old flesh
or the death of a sister’s lover
and the road map etched
along his buddy’s face
No freedom without pain
Reminding
Forebode

And this open highway
calls to your father’s
hidden ghosts
these visions
are given
not spoken
no request has ever
been mouthed free—

No freedom without pain
so married
and
so scathingly

                seared.









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