Two Poems


My Long Hair is Braided 


is the only aria from the otherwise unknown opera, The Amber Witch, performed anymore. The soprano, in her silver-studded belt, four fingers wide and rimmed with crystals, tucked it into her recital. I wondered how the buckle was latched. Having spent the last summer in retail, I had learned the technology that held women’s clothes together: hooks and eyes, cogs and gears, levers and wedges. I’d show customers buttons hidden at the ankles or a strip of elastic sewn into the pump’s upper, explain how to step into a dress through the armpit or how a blazer’s invisible velcro kept the bust in place. One woman, holding a pair of slacks out at me, was asking for a fitting room, but I reached inside the pants to show her the necklace clasp tied into the seam. She glared at me before marching off to find someone with more discretion as to the machinery of her pants. No matter how many times I paint my face with makeup or pile on nickel-plated jewelry, there are some things I’m not initiated into knowing. A boy may walk in heels, but must not make it look easy. A boy may know to wear an odd number of accessories, but must arrange them like a table setting. His drag must be as gaudy as a rolled /r/ in English opera. The man I was dating knew someone who knew someone, so we were able to go backstage after the show and meet the soprano. I love your diction, I said, as she reached out and hugged me, thinking I was someone else. Without a word she let go to hug a friend. Where the belt had been cinched was a crease like a slash between “and” and “or.”



Valkyrie Dances on her Own 


Nocturnality’s technicalities 

are a brutal education, 

physically speaking. 

Funding’s in blond-dyed 

moisture, so sweat for them, 

you fiery frog-ankle, 

until you seem faux-finished 

and your weaponry 

is sticky with grenadine. 

Men put their hands 

on you and stay there, 

leave little v’s of steam 

on hammered bronze curves. 

Every song’s about loneliness. 

As the pleats of your skirt 

widen over a row of knuckles 

and his wrinkly boyishness 

grows out from a haze of gray, 

your request to zip it 

away goes the way of myth: 

spoken in the song’s key 

and dulled under the pulp 

of maraschino cherries. 

You decide to pay 

for the next drink yourself.