Alexa Doran

Stretch Marks

[based on the gestures of the body are a Dada collage by Ryan Swanson]

I offer you a shishkabob. Water-
logged squash, swollen zucchini.
Morning crumples against the bay
window. Is this what they mean
by obliterated? The smashed swan

of your mouth indecipherable
in the yellow blue gristle of light.
Blonde before you were beautiful,
your hair risen to the rung of excess,
another surface for death.

It’s true every woman’s dreams jot across her torso,
a trellis of opal skin. The gentle hashing out, the violet
tally of children. Color more than life is a siphoning.

The hours lynched from you. No longer the pale glove
of winter beckoning, the gorgeous hoopla unfastening.
There is all this time between your bent knees, and like
any worn trail or womb you taste of cotton and undying.

In Which Ghost is a Hue

As I court my son through his tenth month
our ship rollicking
half party, half sustained injury,
I halt at the cueing of ‘court’ —

I am one of those mothers.

Oh plushiest one, how I want to canopy your world.

Every morning is both cake and calla lillies
with you. We giggle against the pillow
but there is no joke,
just the tinkering turned to booming
in a mind that yields to hope.

Ask and you shall receive
ok, so I over-dote.

I mean I am absolutely at the rim
of every dose. Your bottle runneth over

and over, darling. I want to castrate you
save you from the pubic pull that ate me alive,
to wash away the role that rape plays,
to prevent you from the onus to divide.
But I don’t.

You love the goopy, and I want to love it too.

You choose a snowball pumpkin on a church afternoon
and frankly death has more color than this fruit
but you own it. Mine you say, fingering the ghost

hue. So I bend beside the Bloody Effigy of Christ
(you ask poked? And I answer poked through)
to admit

that life is sort of like city traffic,
and we the pedestrians.

What do I mean?

Your death nudges me,
a Buick at the back of my knees.

My son just started saying mom

to something beside the sofa
and it is hitting me harder
than the bong rip I took last night.

You know the kind that leaves you
in a limbo, half hazy half max
clarity, and I think this smoky
state fits perfectly, because damn

if he hasn’t spent the past ten months
not really knowing me. I was okay
being Lady with the Lavender Scented
Butt Wipes and Lady That Rocks
Against Me in the Night. Those slipped
on like Cinderella’s slipper. But now

the stakes have changed — someone’s foot
will not configure his fate. How to teach him
to trade shoe size for being kind? To love
regardless — glass or burlap hide? Honestly
it’s only a matter of hours before he pins me
for a phony, sees I’ve signed up for something
I only wish to be.

I don’t want to be the one who separates
fairy tale from fact or begs you to let me
meet Whitney or Lindsay or Jack or whoever
is your idea of a living dream at sixteen.

I want to Whitman across the world
with you. Two spouts, no, two fountains,
gushing because the grass, the lobster,
the alive alive alive, because the moon-groped

shore is an umbilical cord between us, because
we just started gathering the lilacs and they are
there and there and here.

Alexa Doran is a mother, a lyrical gangster, and a PhD student at FSU. She’s recently been featured or is forthcoming in CALYX, The Pinch, Guernica, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, Juked and Posit literary magazines. Her poem “Emmy Hennings: Access is Excess” won first place in the 2016 Sidney Lanier Poetry competition, and her poem “Directions to My Body for the Uninitiated” was recently a finalist in the 6th Annual Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest.

Kristina Marie Darling

Novel

Head-over-heels-ish I was just miserable. I could no longer speak properly, like the other girls. Pearly buttons on silk cuffs. My teeth trembling. Never read the guest list. The names just sat there, waiting to take their vows. The groom came later than I thought he would. Came with an entourage. Came with board games and stale pretzels. Came to smudge my dress with cerulean and my stockings with rust. Came after the work was already done. The wedding invitations pitched point-first at his mother. My dress hemmed at her majesty, ahem. Those stone cherubs still guarding my garter, milky eyes eyeing an open door. One returned, but most stayed missing, perched on post office windows, watching the letters as they’re slipped into their slots.

After the Miracle

White plates, white tablecloths, white ornaments for the wrists. At night the instruments, and that odd silence. We aren’t force-fed, exactly; more like compelled. The husbands so perfect they’re no longer here. Who knows when the wives’ hands will tremble and the tablecloths catch fire? We polish tomorrow’s champagne flutes. The waitress charts courses from Iceland to Finland to anxious.

Yacht

Wrapped in swansdown and silk, I was becoming smaller and smaller in your hand. You were the impossibility of a shoreline. Who can remember how many times we’d tried before? I wanted to be that cut-glass city waiting for you on the other coast. Frost-bitten, shivering, we unmoor the ship one last time. Sure we’re sailing, the sky colder than the weather, signal flares flaring into the snow.

Classy

We built a spectacle in place of the schoolhouse. Rudimentary rules scrawled across the chalk boards. The trees triaged. Substitutes shoved children into library chairs, trying to make bank tellers of all of us. In gym we could decide between tennis, cage fighting, or trivia night. Every day we tried to stitch the teacher back together, mending holes where some of the girls got grabby. The answers were still multiple choice, but everyone mouthed a different answer. Flowers sprouted out of milk cartons until the cardboard gave way. Sometimes we could see meaning leak from the tiny letters sprawled across the pages of our books. Order was a story we could no longer tell, and night, how it held us at all hours, chained to our desks.

Script

Lace skirt, cracked tooth. How she pivots in that same corridor. Untrimmed hair gathers in gold knots at her temples. There’s a mark on her wrist where the bracelet snapped. A white wainscot keeps her from waiting alone. But when the concierge calls her name in the lobby she’ll climb through the window to the Other City. Unfasten her necklace outside the pawn shop. The same girls always on the bridge thinking nothing at all, tinfoil stuffed in their wallets, cold cream for food. Before long those middle-aged men on Valium crash the family sedan into the auditorium. In each of the chairs, someone holds flowers for the lead.

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of nearly twenty books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and Scorched Altar: Selected Poems and Stories 2007-2014 (BlazeVOX Books, forthcoming). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She was recently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome.