LIZ MARLOW


Liz Marlow's poems have recently appeared in The Bitter Oleander, B O D Y,
The Carolina Quarterly, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.






Edwin Davis, the World's First Electric Chair Executioner, August 6, 1890, 6:38 a.m.

I hesitate,
like a man might
before jumping
off a bridge,
at light switches,
push the button
into a belly,
flip it up
peeling back bark
revealing rot
rather than ON.
If I linger,
I might feel
a shock
from the dying
speaking of another
light.
In firing squads,
no one knows
who fired the killing
shot, but here, one
switch is for one man.
They said this
would be more
humane than firing
squads or gallows.
They said this
would be quick,
but on the first try,
his body hesitates
the way a newly sawed tree
needs a push to fall over.
I increase the voltage,
try again. His victim:
a woman with Ts and Ls
slashed into her skin
with a hatchet. Now,
her killer shakes
like an epileptic,
his shaven head singes
under the skillet hat,
eyes melt as though made
of glass, his body
with blood boiling
like morning coffee,
remembers
and forgets breath.






Linus Pauling, Advocate of Vitamin C Supplements, Dies of Prostate Cancer, August 19, 1994

Vitamins, those tiny footballs and moons,
break down in a stomach and travel through
a body the way dandelion seeds fly in the air.
A man swallows one to fight a cold or the flu,
to regulate blood pressure, to remember
more, to cure anemia or avoid scurvy, because
his doctor told him so, because his doctor
read it in a paper Linus Pauling wrote
in the 1950's, and all the other doctors he went
to school with read that same paper. Of course,
they all believed it to be true. But this man's
fingernails once became so brittle that he realized
if he were stranded on an island or left in solitary
confinement, he could not scratch tally marks
for days passed and would forget, feeling lost;
vitamin C supplements made his nails
healthy again. But the lungs and prostate
can't handle so much vitamin C
from supplements, oranges, strawberries,
bell peppers and broccoli, the way the air
cannot handle too much carbon monoxide
or methane gas, suffocating someone
in a garage with a running engine. But
the man still believes in the vitamins'
healing powers, ignorant of hundreds
who died from cancer during clinical trials,
because his doctor never read those papers
or if he did, chose to ignore the results.






Mice, Two Galaxies

1.
To become me,
listen for an empty
train passing. The wheels, louder
without weight, drown out
an approaching ambulance. Drink
cold coffee in a metal mug
with painted sunflowers. Wear orange
and purple lipsticks, but no reds,
no blood resemblance.
Hold your money
in a makeup bag, no one wants to wear
used eyeliner. Speak in an alto voice,
barely audible. Learn of bruises
from heroin needles on sunburnt skin
flaking from wind exposure. Give
advice on how to treat them
with cotton balls soaked in witch hazel
hidden under Band-Aids.

2.
To leave me,
fill my hair with brushstrokes
from a paintbrush.
You won't need an easel
or death shroud
for the floor, only arm
muscles guiding movement.
Paint, thicker without a palette, hides
gesso. You don't even need
the paintbrush, just a dance partner,
maybe one of Degas' ballerinas.
You don't even need to leave me.
I could become your ballerina.
We could tell a story of dance,
your hands around me.
I could be your bottle;
you could be my needle.



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