She, Them, His How had the first meeting gone so badly? We had wanted this. We arranged it over months, down to the forks and stockings. I spoke of my past and the thorny lessons, the pills I took And refused, the straining of my arms to measure her. It must’ve worked too well. The explanation is that we folded Together like old clothes, seam to zipper. It’s intolerable, lying On top of her, or her on me, the loss of vision all hers, The loss of movement all mine, and here we are, Some kind of crooked ghost-smile, a laugh And a long tendentious premise, bullet points, Stained like towels, torn like sheets, scrubbed off like soap. It’s what women must come to. We throb in a heap. ≠ Keep it simple or she’ll hate you. Keep it simple or she’ll Hurt you. Keep it simple or she’ll pay her friends to gang up All over you. They tear your clothes off from the neck down To make you understand they’re what there is now. Simple silent. Simple silent says: simple weapon, rough rock in warm pool. Two of them, one of you, keep it simple or you’re screwed. They also stand before flowers without directing seeds to soil. They also forget what they said. They also forget your name. ≠ When I speak, I do so as a woman. Speaking as a woman, I say, And then I go on too long. I might talk about men Or I might say I’m proud of what we chose, Whoever I mean by “we,” whatever I mean by “choice.” But when you speak of me, you see double. I might as well be twins, Two eyes, two legs, two big ideas, you know the rest. Your noose Tickles my neck. Verbs, moving, Like hedge clippers or bandages or calculators or winches, I mean tools in the garage. They’re useful, like me, And when they get rusty at the hands of the lazy gardener Just order more. When I own my own clippers, That’s how I handle them, a history of clippers, Like a man’s tools, in a man’s shed, in a man’s big box. I say keep it simple, stupid, come here Where I can lay my smooch on you, so you know it means I could pucker up and remove the marrow From your eye bone and your thigh bone and your die bone, And if you died, that would be simple enough. The Usual Explanation One solid job to do, one easy piece of work, and you can’t manage. You’re a plane ripping out the last moments of sky on one sore engine. Your voice creaks like hinges, your hand shakes on the rusted knob. Slam the door and you continue to knock. The chimes of shame ring for you. They peal above the city where you push your cart laden with the ash of hope no one can see but you as you rub it between your palms. All anyone wants of you is nothing. But you push, you make your face ugly with hard desire, longing to marry above you, into the family that owns the land, paying its workers in dull bread. • Honestly, you should’ve worn better clothes. Now when we look at you our eyes count the threads in the fabric and come up short. So few they are like the puzzle of you, who will not go away, who will not fit your body in the slot, twisting to click the tumblers. There was never enough of you to fly where you attempted. There is the vast dry earth, coughing its crooked cancers, where the gelatin drops of your bleeding, your ceaseless feeding, soak in fast, and nothing grows. When we see you marching along with your voice tuned to the heavens, you sing your best song into silence. Yes Men they were yes men seeking yes men good men speaking the good word to men of few words men of hands to shake with a firm grip they had an image they meant to uphold they were tall men used to standing up for the same old nodding plodding men they were virtuous men so their wives said who wore the back half of the mule suit to the parties where the nose count came up missing all the no men and the woe men they were trouble for the yes men who caught them talking who caught them laughing at the yes men in their black clothes not like black crows more like starlings all the same men not so smart men don’t ask questions they can’t answer they say their pay grade is too high to know they refer you to the secretary they return to deliberations with their best friends the other yes men and yes girls can’t be raped girls don’t resist girls just say yes girls just smile pretty when he tells you you’re his favorite little yes girl he’s a yes man needing yesses for his blesses he’s a church man searching for peace man in his tall clothes with his shovel digging your grave chiding gently until he thinks he sees you defying his same old same old his sternest judgments yes men say yes to men of few words only one word his hand’s extended it’s up to you now to reject it but it’s a sin to him in his yes mind and his yes team gets up from their chairs in the gallery and come toward you with their parchment and their ballpoint pens just sign here ma’am just say yes sir to what we ask you we promise to go easy and you want to have it easy it’s tempting to take it easy and then you turn and see behind you a line of no men some of them woe men it’s an omen not to give in Fillet Corrections, palpable as plums. They’re ready for me to slice into, but my knife is not yet sharp so I wait. Behind us stands—shifts— the idea of resolution, tall in a slate wet trench. That’s what it will look like if I lift the blade to the error at the (right) necessary angle. You know the speed of the skill, to let up the pressure—worse than breaking through egg yolk, say, tomato’s closer, and wrong throws seeds in a spray. So there’s that.
About the Author:
Lisa Lewis has published six books of poetry, most recently Taxonomy of the Missing (The Word Works, 2018), The Body Double (Georgetown Review Press, 2016), and a chapbook titled The Borrowing Days (Emrys Press, 2021). Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Agni Online, Interim, Posit, Diode, Florida Review, and elsewhere. She directs the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serves as editor of the Cimarron Review.
Image by Joyce McCown/ Unsplash