Editor's note: these poems originally appeared in the old/previous Luna Luna
The New Twilight Zone: “Empty City”
The cloud cover enveloping our hull
splits, shifts to our back like a parachute,
and we descend to the city below. Its three
mighty rivers: now kinked, dribbling hoses.
The scent of seething biomass—brown mounds
going green again with psyched, thriving mold—
reaches us far up as we are—and look: plumes
of smoke snaking into the air there. Flames
and dry backyard blowup pools below coming
into focus, but too much sun to see the windows
in the buildings all have x’s in their eyes.
Between white lines dash-dash-dashing the roads:
not a car. The voice on the tower mic:
silent as a bee hive.
“Schenectady Is Most Definitely
a hyperbolic landscape full of empty swimming pools,
violent men with tight asses straining the seams of their acid
washed jeans, pizza swamps of molten cheese with slices,
like my heart, rrrrrripped out—like starfish missing arms,
but opposite—inverted—or something,” my voice trails
off but my hands keep miming a triangle shape in the air,
tee-peeing it pointy and knifey to show him the purport of that
invisible missing piece, its edge so etched in my brain, then
one hand slips down the other side like a bathtub spider so
I climb back up the spout…
“Did you take your crazy pills?”
he asks. “I don’t have anything to swallow them with,” I reply,
about to cry. He pulls over, we get out, I follow him into
the branches of an overgrown cloud of a hedge, green
as animal eyes, to a blue pool hidden in the middle.
“Swallow them with that,” he points at the water.
“It’s full of chemicals,” I insist. “Not for years,”
he grins. I bend down to the water, “You’re like
an almanac—gulp gulp.” Somehow, again, I’d
missed the shy emptying and filling,
the husk, bud and bloom.
The End of NYC
I sat down on the F train across from a woman (?)—long stringy black wig, short dirty white skirt, bad plastic surgery, bulges like slugs shifting under her skin. Taking up her entire right calf: a tattoo of a woman’s face—a sad woman with her hair in rollers—thick lips and eyelids—lips curled back—teeth showing but not smiling. The hair rollers. The eyes rolled back. My mind told me that the woman across from me was a genius. I made eye contact with her. “That’s the best tattoo I’ve ever seen,” I said. She lit up, “Yes, I’ve got two! It only took him an hour, it’s my angel…” her words poured out without pause. Instantly, I understood she was nervous and desperately lonely—not the kind of woman who’d get an ironic tattoo. My eyes moved back to her calf. Those weren’t hair rollers‚ just sproingy ringlet curls. It was an angel, and the worst tattoo I’d ever seen. I felt the recognition of this fall across my face, and I saw her see it on my face. Like when Jack Nicholson in The Shining thinks he’s making out with the hot chick who just crawled out of the bathtub, and he looks in the mirror and sees she’s really dead. I’d like to think I didn’t look that horrified, when, for no reason she would ever understand, I turned on her and her angels.
Riding in the car with my mother, I never graduated from the back seat to the front. Whenever I tried to climbing in next to her (“This is stupid—I’m riding up front”), she’d howl and swipe at me until I caved. That was how she defended her space. We drove around like that until I got my driver’s license: us two, locked in the dust-mote mottled skies of our own minds, counting things. Me: syllables and the shadows of telephone poles falling across the car. Her: I don’t know. She can’t describe her OCD to me—only that it has to do with numbers—some inexplicable tally she’s been running all her life. I imagine it like a spider’s web, easily disturbed, then dispersed by the breath of other people. Whatever its shape, it’s the only thing that’s ever soothed her.
One stalk of corn can’t bear fruit by itself. It needs other stalks around to pollinate. Even a single row won’t cut it. Indians knew to grow them in circles, my boyfriend tells me. And sunflowers, his father adds, grown in a row will take turns bending north, then south, etc. down the line to give each other a shot at the light. We’re in the garden after dinner. Suddenly I envy anything that moves itself to accommodate another: a subtle shift to the left or right, self preservation that could pass for love.
Jennifer L. Knox is the author of Days of Shame and Failure (Bloof Books, 2015). Her other books, The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, Drunk by Noon, and A Gringo Like Me are also available from Bloof. Her poems have appeared four times in the Best American Poetry series (1997, 2003, 2006, and 2011), as well as in the anthologies Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present and Best American Erotic Poems.