(sharing with the Tuesday Platform at the fantastic and much missed by me Imaginary Garden with Real Toads poetry blog):
Apartment B Around Back
On brighter blue Fall mornings
Agnes’s emptiness lays itself
out across the shitty sofa, inhales a Newport
with the bald sun coming in bloating the smoke
into still clouds striated by the blinds,
and tells her to go fuck herself.
There is laundry to do.
Always laundromats on stale, sexless mornings
leafless dead branches all thin and lonely
fencing in how small the world is
across the blue sky like gates;
always laundromats for these days-brown and shitty
7/11-salmon el Caminos parked on pale asphalt,
everything bleached out. The kind of day
where her emptiness usually gets up and
follows her in a stiff pea coat down the sidewalk
on the other side of the street, matching her steps,
never looking at her.
Agnes shifts out of her blue wool sweater
she scored at Vinny’s on the third of the month,
peels down the leggings with
the hole in the crotch
and can’t recall opening any condom hours before.
She pictures time in fragmentary images.
She sees the man, she sees the moisture
of their breath and she sees it dissipate as the man kicks
a hole into the window, as if he punched through
paper. Paper candy. Candy dots on those sheets
her parents used to buy her at Bay City Carnival. Sugar—
she squeezes what’s left of the syrup into her old coffee,
She needs to think. On the couch emptiness
throws its head back
over the arm, following her
with a gaze into the kitchen and says
but not quite to her:
-smoke exhalation with a “phew” sound-
coffee ain’t gonna cure the shit you shot up last night, jus sayin’.
Agnes tries to picture his clothing, his hands,
his cock, but all she can see are teardrops,
moonlight on a syringe, his chewed finger tips.
He wears a noisy NASCAR jacket she remembers,
the whisk-whisk of his arms moving. “Here, oh
yeah there it is here we go…”
and she is following direction half-ass as her head
leans back against a red curtain.
“Agnes…” the man sang as he tapped her arm. Hard.
She lifts her arm higher so he doesn’t get mad.
She opens the dirty hamper with its green flower
print on the vinyl, another thrift store steal.
Agnes opens the lid to pull out the clothes,
but looks past it and down to the brown linoleum
floor where coffee grains and bread ties gather in the corner.
She looks at the greasy white cabinets-her fingerprints,
theirs, his. On the counter the empty spray-paint can.
“Agnes…what you gonna do for me now Agnes,” his
words sugar. His eyes caramelizing as she lets him.
Emptiness enters the kitchen.
She looks at the sink. Milk thickened on spoons.
Chicken bones on a paper plate. She doesn’t remember
what happened after he says that,
and it plays like a chilled refrain
in the back of her head.
But she remembers just before
the sun came up. She took him for a time. Peals of her high
laughter, her self-possession, spray-painting
on the large rear window:
“AGNES WAS HERE.”
She feels the absence of that possession now
the way she feels Emptiness undress,
gather its belongings, and weep in the corner by the register.
Standing alone in her two-room apartment
with eviction notices in view from missing
the garbage can, her disability check stub, money
blown up her arm or down her throat or in her belly.
Her cell phone useless on the counter
with Doctor Allan’s number written
in marker on the refrigerator door. Pan camera out.
She watches herself in the lens go far away, shrinking
among the things that were hers—all she could call hers.
Out the window and into the
bleached blue sky morning, through and away from the
dark skinny grasp of leafless branches,
out into the littered alley and then up
into the telephone poles
into the wires and
into the sky.