UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY
LAFAYETTE WATTLES

Death Comes In Smallness

I remember the day recess stopped being
the last preservation of fun. We had
quit playing four-square in the sun
to watch a hawk take something dark
from the field, and the teacher
said it was a mouse, only it was more.
For, until that moment, life had been
this huge thing we were all part of,
but none of us thought about
how small it becomes once it's given a body
or that death comes in smallness, too.
And, as if some greater force needed
to make this clear, sirens called us, then,
to the front of the school, where we found
two men in white loading the ambulance.
Being slaves to the spectacle of the unknown,
we cheered, as they drove away,
unaware that my sister was the mystery,
that she had swollen shut—her eyes, mouth,
throat—from a couldn’t even see it
hint of cinnamon, and, to this day, when I see
a hawk circling the sky, searching, searching,
as I have all these years, I pull
to the side of the road, and say goodbye.


Something More

Hot summer nights
we’d watch the widow next door
from the top floor of the maple—
the one dad lopped one afternoon
while we were lost at school—
and you’d pretend to be her lover,
before we knew anything about loving
anyone but our-own-teen-selves,
and you’d put on that thick French
accent with your lips plumped out
as if she wore some special magnetic suit
beneath her nakedness
polarized just for your kisses,
and you’d say, Oui, oui, mon cheri,
I would love to love you and only you,

and, as if she could hear you,
she’d dance like a feather
on a breath of air, light, soft,
window opened wide,
until the night we caught dad
standing near the trunk whispering
words he was supposed to save
for mom, and the widow
must have heard or seen him,
there, below us, for she clutched
her drapes, gasped, then saw me, you,
two featherless birds gawking
with our beaks flung wide,
our hunger for her replaced by fear,
and dad said, Oh, Shit! and ducked
behind the tree until he realized
she had eyes for us, and I was ready
to jump, then, from the limbs,
the way you had done from our youth,
but you smiled at me and mouthed,
She’s seen us and is still there,
just as dad grabbed your foot
like a loose branch, shook you free,
then me, but he didn’t say anything,
what could he say,
so he just dragged us by our ears
to the house, and you didn’t see
how I took the pain, how I twisted
back, as the drapes drew closed,
how the widow seemed to linger,
there, and sigh, I was sure of it,
as I caught one last glorious hint
of thigh, of hip, of breast
and thought, just then, that
maybe we weren’t the only ones
collecting something more than memories
those hot summer nights.


The Dissolution
- upon viewing "Payton Wright"
(photo of nude in mirror at Gallery 21C, Louisville) by Anne Hayunga


You may have been some Math-magician's X.
A well-compassed concubine, no longer tucked

up his sleeve. Each broken-angled breast
in gradual decline. His oft recited hocus-pocus

lines reduced with each new pound
of your accumulated flesh. Your curves

distorted, even in the abracadabra glass. All
sleight of hand, misdirection, the illusion of his love

erased like a once bold hypotenuse, leaving legs divided—
between them, between you, nothing but the void.









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