Issue 35, Final Fringe

Wanton Textiles

Yes, Lycra can improve your performance
so let’s stretch together and recover
that original shape our creases keep
singing about.  You are the free-flowing
silhouette and I’m the classic jailer
with a scissor blade deep in my ankle.

Only a few heads are recognizable enough
by their shape to be cut from black paper.
Not former French Minister of Finance
Etienne de Silhouette, whose name
anagrammed is the esteemed in outline.
Not the woman in a beige parka who asks
for everything at the deli counter twice.
Not D.H. Lawrence whose body was buried,
exhumed, cremated, taken by boat to Taos,
else thrown overboard into the Rhone.
What’s the greater tribute: an honorary
degree or to be buried in absentia?

These fabrics are slippy situations,
putting us all on the whorepath of snakes
stitching shut the fallen hero figure;
strewn, doom, it’s just a flowing skirt
whose hem reaches for sky, for looming
breasts. Are we being set up for greatness
or biblical fall?  This ark’s not the Love Boat.
“Lui Et Elle” is French for “He and It,”
an October surprise is not a golden shower.
It’s the difference between Tehran and terrain.

All around the city, mourners hold vigils
in candlelit knots, distribute saffron threads
to barefoot dwellers they will later expunge
from their eyes like cinema-on-demand.
Does the fact that snatch and achoo lurk
in watch the way nematode does in cinema
mean their pain is not palpable in verse?

Or the inverse: how in covetous fashion
the line mines registers, taps into reservoirs
fed by reading, using genuine suffering
to charge its own brief existence with pies
and pathos, however the trend translates.

Let’s rather stretch together, sky, breasts,
silhouettes, our own recognizable heads
unnumbered and damp upon the grass
asking for once, twice, thrice, why count
why wretch, why not bind our thighs around
our pathos and like CBs buzz:

“From here I banish your zipper
and all your senseless buttons.
There are neither worms nor snakes
Between the blades. These are fingers
and a massage, a sublime massage.”

Our great religion, like Lawrence’s,
is a belief in the blood, not wind
and quibbles flung out like corn to fowl,
not the fine art of backlighting a head,
but giving head backed into a tight spot
illumined by headlights, the grass plush
with dew, contrary to hush in Sunday School,
because the body wants its transport nasty
before it fails, falls into a slough that crooks
the spine, punctuates the veins in relief
upon the calf like a string of ratty Christmas
lights no hose can hide, no leg lifts efface,
but let’s try, stretch, recover, uncover, unstitch,
redo, wallpaper with wet tongue, unrepentant
as Mohammed, arms akimbo, surfaces surfed,
caverns craved, a flare of awareness shot
into the sky hotly before ebbing to reflected
sunlight in the atmosphere, dust-smudge
of Zodiacal light, vestigial glimmer shed
by asteroids and comets, moving finger
referred to as false dawn in the Rubaiyat,
like the tesla coils of a bug zapper sparking
orange and blue death to any flier possessed
by insect instinct or ruby-stained pupils,
fluttering. The bandages are ribbons spliced
in swirls of co-eds’ auburn manes.

Suture and knots so delicate, so divine,
so gropable, let’s purport, let’s profess,
let’s whitewash the roots to make them
blonde or hazel, zealous and keen.  Being
in love with the girl who confuses astrology
with astronomy brings head in the headlights
and mauve walls.  Being in love with the boy
who confuses ejection with ejaculation,
organism with orgasm, supernova
with superstition brings swallows, gasps
of astonishment from no huddled crowd.
Yet the idea, once thought, is cast in retrospect
before the time of its doing by nubile rubble
looming vast in the slabyard of recurrent camisoles.

Nothing doing.
Not a single train has left the station
grown over with snarling vetch, sandwich wrappers,
any accordion music long dead to the blown wind
that will still bring snow for a season, remaking
in white what reverts to irrepressible fields
in immeasurable skies, entropy sticky between
girl and boy, itching fabric clinging,
teasing like tassels.

Weaned on such knowledge
the blood can’t help but rise to froth the nerves
like the captain his shipmen, whip-crack driven
to reach the green-teeming shore shimmering,
clusters of native women like almonds to unpeel,
to split open lengthwise and eat.

From first tree to blossom, the last fruit harvested
can be juiciest if chosen by a practiced eye.
Where no eyelet halter unravels, stiff
around the clavicle, nothing happens but happens,
slower, less methodical, in tune to undergrowth
brimming with veering air that the girl gulps
too easily with frenzied, practiced, parched mouth,
mist-salted with what she won’t acknowledge,
even as she pulls his center out at the root.

She muses, “Why take it in? Why so much?
Will he split me open too? Peal like a bell?
Trade my throbs for a lap dance and silence?
Where is the lather on his lips coming from?”
She doesn’t know it’s her own engorged
pupils that wills the thin walls to disappear,
disguising the rubble, plying from a paisley-
carpeted motel room a beach at low tide
with dripping knots of nude bathers
licking breeze off wrists and shoulders.

The clumps of refuge, or is it refuse, appear
as artifacts glued together. In short in need
of analysis. She doesn’t believe
he’s interested in archeology.  She thinks
he’s sorting the natives from the bathers
chalking up sneers from the well-connected.

If a marriage proposal from the captain awaited
answer, there’s the key in her locket
to an unused cottage where she could
sob in confidence.  Nothing doing.
No end to the drama in sight. Her life out-
Jane-Eyred Jane Eyre on the way to be locked
in the red-room by Bessie: I resisted all the way:
a new thing for me…a trifle beside myself;
or rather OUT of myselfresolved, in my desperation
to go to all lengths.

Scathed, maimed, smitten, scared, struck
with the thought, a dirty murmur of a thought,
that whatever water bathers bathed in
stretched past isthmuses to where her captain captained
surrounded by hairy men, who knew each other
by nickname, knew their vessel as Consolata,
woman made of riggings. Who would lay locked
in bunks groaning with the undulations,
Consolata moving forward in all kinds of weather,
groaning silently into their hands, pretending to sleep,
conjuring faces from childhood villages that diminished
in clarity the further the ship got from shore.

And her captain? Brute as a spiked mace, beating
the docks until the timbers rang with gratefulness.
Being in love with astrology, astronomy, ejection,
ejaculation, not elation full on in the face like the spray
of water dousing a sliding body in a hydrotube.
No reason that any captain could quite articulate.
Why spend so much time on the empurpled seas
away from her? Would he snap back like Lycra
or else rip free? Or would he stretch on, testing
on the strength of her elasticity his entire private
eternity?  He might. Some fabrics are meant
to be torn. Sometimes it’s easier to refrain,
evade the thought that leaps up like lupine.
Some have quilted miles stitching tight those
dirty murmurs, “THAT didn’t come from me!”
A trifle inside themselves, dissolved, searching
for that short cut, that quick snip, that sinking
hip, the bottom of the ocean the mirror image
of a helium balloon released from a child’s hand
to snag in a bare oak branch, discreetly.

Reckless, off track, she pled for repair:
Please keep me. Don’t tell them where. Hide me.
Fasten me under your undershirt, pressed to your chest,
ruffled in hair. I’m not as indecent as you believe.
I don’t knit with disgrace, my wickedness is pure.
I’m in love with something spinning me soft and itchy.

Say we adore our brutes, those we slight and mock.
She and I.  Me and her.  Odysseus and Penelope.
Rain and holes. Red-eyed tailoresses gnawing
buttons when tongues go wet and laps are climbed
into like thread through a needle’s eye.

What he doesn’t know is she always finds elation
in ejection, astrology in ejaculation.
From man to woman, from him to her,
captain to captured, friend to fade, you to me,
a skin is stretched so taut it hurts to wear.

It’s not scissors straight down the seam,
the flattering A-line shrouding the curves, bulges
that shame us to darkening rooms.
Not the “I have no place else to sleep” line,
the nudge and hush, the deceitful, delightful
“As long as we don’t go there” line.

It’s what begins at the waist, the round
and dip, the innie and outie, the fabric we rue
that rouses us most.

Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar

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Ravi Shankar, associate professor of English and poet-in-residence at Central Connecticut State University, grew up in Virginia, earning a BA from the University of Virginia and an MFA from Columbia University. His collections of poetry include Instrumentality (2004), a finalist for the 2005 Connecticut Book Awards; the collaborative chapbook Wanton Textiles (2006), with Reb Livingston; and Deepening Groove (2011), winner of the National Poetry Review Prize. He also coedited, with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, Language for a New Century, an anthology of contemporary poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and beyond.

Reb Livingston

Reb Livingston

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Reb Livingston is the author of God Damsel (No Tell Books, 2010) and Your Ten Favorite Words (Coconut Books, 2007). When she’s not writing, she curates the Bibliomancy Oracle (