Lucy Wainger's poems have appeared in The James Franco Review, The Blueshift
Journal, Black & BLUE, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She is a senior at
Stuyvesant High School in New York City.
Law of Refraction
after Arthur Miller
[Red Hook] When New York is a slaughterhouse,
bandaged by ports: how we keep
the city from bleeding out. Spend long blue days
dragging sacks of coffee beans from the ships, uniform,
unless someone drops
their cargo and the burlap splits
and spills out harvest-time. This is how we learn about accident.
[Sicily] Take this seriously:
everywhere, statues. Everywhere, bones
baked clean, marble-white. We crouch in the river,
feel it filling every crack
in our cracked feet. We have so many bodies,
so many configurations of bodies. Here we run through all of them.
[Red Hook] Our grandparents came here for two or
three good reasons.One: streetlights: the safety afforded
to those who live under blotted-out stars.Two:
how American mothers rock their American sons to sleep,
the end of the song twisting into softness.Three—
[Sicily] Everyone here is either a lawyer or a priest.
Any voice that speaks
disaster, we know how it works:
the way sentences form themselves; the way the story ends
in church, some new saint and the rest of us, closed
eyes. Buoyed by the silence of alarm.
[Red Hook] This is how we learn where to put our hands.
This is how we move them: butter-fingers, uncertain grip.
A boy playing catch with his father, a dog with its tail.
After work we get a drink, quiet, the last light
streaming through the glass. Last light
streaming through the glass—comes out bent.
for Diego Rivera
I am born with ten names
and one brother;
after two years, he sinks back into me.
I begin writing on the walls: they notice
and do not anger—
surround me with chalkboard and cherry.
Twisted pathways in
the blood and the marrow,
light-switch, piano key—
brother, you know best what should have been ours and is not.
These accidents of history:
conversion, pneumonia. Everything
has nothing to do with me:
if you are born in Mexico, you will die in Mexico.
Before bed I imagine you
each of my ribs.
My hands as seaweed knotted into a pistol
braced against the walls. I want to go back.
We can grieve without stopping
in the middle, the muck
of gunfire: war-horse, pomegranate. Civilians encircling
the body, neither shield nor chorus—
I am covering the walls
with what has happened, has been swallowed.
Brother, she knows accidents.
She paints birds
to crown her pelvis, antlers
to dress her wounds, insists she doesn't dream. I don't believe her.
Brother, she loves me, she loves
women, she cannot have
a child. She opens her mouth
I watch her bleed.
A man is a machine if he is born
with four wings, images of the dead
flickering in his wheels, his tired eyes.
Men wear red caps and gas masks and cannot bridge
the cavern of wanting
in even the most forgiving rooms. This is what I mean by neurosis:
in the shadow of the machine,
orange trees bloom.
Fill my murals with the faces of the enemy,
they are covered and I paint new ones:
no one has yet noticed it is the same mural, over and over again.
She watches me, says nothing—she has her own rituals:
smashes mirrors, rearranges the pieces until she sees
her other face, what could have kissed and cannot.
Her men are exit wounds. Her hands are baskets offering
stale bread, rain, ammunition—
we live in an exile that does not belong to us.
Brother, is it the same for you?
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