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  • Post category:Prose

By Jenny Darden
Phoenix: Spring 2001
TW: Allusions to Suicide

1. The Disillusionment

Romeo and Juliet are dead, and this time they’re not faking.

Their dirty, naked bodies are lying beneath the apple tree, cradled in its roots, God-shamed. And we all stand around taking pictures, like they taught us to. I finally get to try out my new zoom lens. Roots ever growing downward seek hollow spaces in dirt.

Yesterday, tired and filthy and bra-less, I jumped a plane to L.A. Wanted to leave you behind, but took you with me—an unfinished scar, a poem in my head (maybe a riddle). I guess I’m just buying time: Knoxville time, L.A. time, your time, my time—it helps to know whose time we’re wasting, I think. Dying, they drew their lives in the dirt, mocking a self-portrait. We laughed and called them fools, and crunch strychnine apples until the sun came up.

2. An Epitaph for the Muses

Where she was, there’s a pair of sneakers floating in a

swimming pool.

Where she was, there’s a velvet noose and a wristwatch.

Where she was, there’s a virgin paper and unbled ink.

Where she was, dystocia killed the cow, but the cat’s

still kicking.

Where she was, rain collects, reeking, stagnant.

Where she was, endless endings.

Where she was, I bleed but can’t find a scratch.

Where she was, noise art, a dissonance experiment.

Where she was, he sits on the porch scissoring my face from

every shared pose, convinced that it only hurts because it is supposed to.

3. Flying

Having the window seat means a lot to some people. Just like having the last word means a lot to other people, and having children means a lot to still other people. I am sad that nothing means a lot to me, and sadder still that I have so nearly perfected the art of lying to myself.

4. Eden by Moonlight

Last night I dreamt that I was a statue in Eden, lovely and cold, with a round stone belly and smooth stone arms, and ivy curled between my toes. I stood barefoot and talkless in the raw pale of moonlight and watched the serpent offer Eve the apple. My helplessness immortalized, made beautiful by Him.

I dreamt a lacey mist, and I dreamt until waking, numbed and new, to turbulence and the stainless-steel gleam of the beverage card weaseling down an anorexic aisle. I dreamt a coffin and listened to the nails you hammered in, ping ping ping. And I let you rearrange me until I fit, and we slept that way all night, acting but not tasting, gnawing on the dropped, rotted fruit because it was all that we could reach t h e g r o u n d  w a s  a s  h i g h  a s  w e  c o u l d  r e a c h.

The dropped fruit rotted on the ground, and the fallen ones reached up, up to take of it. And, in the waking, I dreamt a coffin and listened to the nails you drove in, ping ping ping, they keep getting deeper.

5. Shakespeare in Ribbons

Tonight I am thousands of miles over Honolulu with boy-shorn hair and the Bard in paperback; halfway to Sydney above a rolling and invisible Pacific—melted candle wax, a smothered wick in the east where dawn should be glowing. I am gaining altitude and gaining hours of night. I’m thousands of miles over you and rising like heat.

6. Impressions

It’s dark in the garden. In the vintage I am making apple juice, wringing knows dry as bone, leaving the impressions of my fingernails in the soured flesh. Sure that I’ve finally left him behind me, on the same porch, separating my smile from his.

Forgetting that the serpent watches through folds of trees and wisps of swaying branch; through Venetian glass eyes, soaking up impressions, swallowing moonlight with eager hinged jaws, his hunger blackening me to a shadow of myself.

Forgetting the things that I did to earn his smile.

It seems long ago.

7. Misinformation

Noah wants to be the John-Smith to my Pocahontas.

Only, it was John Rolfe who loved Pocahontas.

But I pretend with him, which may prove to be my wrongest thing I have ever done.

8. Burned

High over the Pacific, I dreamt myself at home in bed, the serpent slithering like fast-growing ivy up my bedpost and between my clean linens. With his forked tongue he seduced me, made me impure.

When it was over, I ran barefoot outside into the fields of dew-plump grass the shade of envy, shivering in the ill-fitting pink silk of “I wish I was.” Gunshots rang out, and I clutched my exploded heart and fell down into the wet grass, the sharp report still echoing in my head long after I awoke, sweating bullets and nursing dragon-singed wings, the newest member of the mile-high club.

9. Here

You’re here, and I’m calling him to tell him that it’s over.

You’re here, and wet clothes are churning in a heat cyclone,

laundromat acrobatics.

You’re here, and I’m choking on forbidden fruit swallowed whole.

You’re here, and the serpent crawling up my legs.

You’re here, and I’m here.

You’re here, the statues are crumbling to dust…crawling on

the floor after too many drinks, too many no’s…

You’re here telling me not to worry, sitting on your forked tail.

You’re here after the bars are closed, feeding me apple juice

through the tube in my arm.

You’re here, and he’s not.

10. Denouement

I woke up drunk this morning, and he thought it could be the same.

I woke up wishing that I could be hung-over.

And all the skinny white branches a-scratch-scratch-scratch-

ing at my windowpane like a cat wanting to be let in.

He talks with his hands, and stays drunk so that he will always

Have a convenient excuse, and I pretend that’s all right,

like we can just put the apple back on the tree (duct tape).

11. Disgrace

He keeps finding me poems for me, broken glass shoved up

through my foot. The statue of a murdered muse. A prelude to.

Don’t ask me what. Piano ivory beneath the weight of his fin-

gertips pressed down. And I’m getting sicker by the minute.

12. The New Crucifixion

He drives it into me, all nine inches like ping ping ping like bad

porn. He dies inside me, closed in stale like music in elevators

like music getting loud like venom dripping like honeysilk like

bobbing for apples in water music.

He softens the noose so that I’ll die longer.

13. Gotten Lucky

He left me unfinished, high above the Pacific and falling. I re-

enjoyed Faulkner on the way down, mile-high incest. I still feel

the alcohol swimming when I close my eyes. Going back to one

I never left. Should. While all the star-crossed lovers hang out

at the mausoleum nursing apple bites and making suicide. I

am the aftertaste of the processed form of the forbidden fruit. I

am a backwash apple juice in granny panties on laundry day. I

am a retro Juliet, sweet thirteen again as he tears apart my smile

and forgets the nights inside me and rising like heat music a

hundred thousand miles over; and still not over,

Still not over.


Artwork: "Parasites of the Heart" by Karen Anderson