Winter 2007

Table of Contents - Vol. III, No. 4


Poetry    Essays    Fiction    Book Reviews

Clarinda Harriss


McCrory’s Big Blue Sign

Like a hole

Like a hole in the head. What you don’t need.
A hole in the hose that squirts the brain awake,
jerks the reins, makes the creature walk.
Black and white like that 40’s Dorian Gray,
the ultra-sound picture now pulses Technicolor,
the movie’s final shot, curtain yanked aside.
My heart’s dopplering choo-choo’s so huge it seems
my body must burst. ‘The body works miracles,’
the tech praises or prays. Knock on wood:
the Irish way, knuckles to jokester skull.

Jokester Body

The body’s sense of humor’s crude as God’s.
Guileful, willful, worse than the bluest movie.
No wit. Much schmutz. Depends on stinks and belches.
“Many a true word is spoken in earnest,”
but dandy Wilde died splattering the ceiling
with his guts, a belly laugh on the mannered world.
As for mine—god damn the bitch, I loved
her like a dog, a horse, I stroked and stoked
her like a lithesome lover, and now she show her ass
to Doctor Death, with his buzz and his sleazy grin.

5 & 10

McCrory’s had a Notions counter, like
Hochschild’s or Hutzlers, like it wasn’t just
a 5 & 10. Notions were little--pins,
barettes, elastic garters, things that seemed
designed and set out on the sectioned counter
just to be stolen by kids. Obscene things, too,
or so they looked—finger stalls and long skin-
colored balloons (what were they? Condoms? I
still wonder.) Things that remind us things slide in
and out. Notions. The body’s are dirty jokes.


The machine that roars beside me, who?
I knew someone who snored like the B & O
and woke everyone asleep on 26th street,
that blue-black opening where tunnels joined--
yet I loved my great-grandmother and hated
myself for holding a smothering pillow ready.
Some people say I snore. I call them liars
who go to sleep dead drunk and wake up bitching.
Only family’s allowed to laugh at her,
my double, my familiar. How I’ll miss her.


Big Easy Trick (September, 2005)

Pontchartrain, you filthy fille,
you always wanted to suck
the city back into your stink-
ing hole, your juices thick
with fish guts, chicken heads,
blood, beer-piss and shit.

We understand. We loved that shit!
Danced in it, drank its stink,
sold our drunken heads
down the river thick
with sex and music, sucked
it in, guzzled our fill,

and more than filled:
overflowed in alley ways’ thick
dark. Grins pressed to our heads
like guns, we were suckers
for con-boys talking shit,
pocket-picking in the stink:

Ten dollar say I can tell you
exactly where and when
you got those shoes you wearin.

All that’s left today is stink.
The city’s a river of shit
and sickness. We can’t get our heads
around it, we’re too filled
with how it used to be in the thick
of it, happy drunk-ass suckers.

So we’re begging you, suckers
that we are, when the shit
sinks and new concrete thickens
your waist, to keep your stink
(and ours) ripe and ready to re-fill
the streets. We bend our heads--

You got those shoes
right here the pavement
of Bourbon Street—tonight,
July the tenth, year of our Lord
two thousand oh-oh five,
in the fine city of New Orleans.



“Cell phones ringing in the pockets of the dead”—
we woke to that sentence on September thirteen—
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night”:
the words sang themselves to that Beatles tune.

We woke to the radio September thirteen
and the day before, and days after, first in neutral,
then with words singing themselves. The tunes
of Amazing Grace and America the Beautiful

red-white-blued for months the ashy neutral
of the dust that bleached our days. But heavy irony
supplanted any lasting grace, any beautiful
re-vision of images we’d watched in real time.

Dust continued to return to dust. Heavy irony:
cancer and age kept on coming to collect
as usual, without fanfare, marking our real time,
our careless bodies’ mounting debts.

Cancer and age: they’re calling us collect.
We don’t answer, we check caller identification.
We know our careless bodies’ mounting debts.
Our spendthrift cells keep up their acceleration.

Our genes have given out our caller identification.
Our cells keep ringing from the pockets of the dead.
No tunes, no bagpipes, just a dim acceleration--
black birds singing in the dead of night.


Blue Pool

What did I do
to be so black and blue?
(traditional blues)

The train that dopplered us was the Royal Blue.
Callie said it pulled a famous Pullman Car.
Callie said she once knew a Pullman conductor.
We waved at the man in the caboose. His hat
was blue and white. The sky was blue and
the Royal Blue was blue and the coal was blue
in the sun. Callie had a blue dress she always
wore. White cuffs. It’s my uniform. It shows
I work for yall. It choo-chooed into the tunnel.
I could see the blue of the whites-only public pool.

Callie taught me to jitterbug so when some guy
with black slick hair combed into a D(uck)A(ass)
handed me a cigarette and led me to the blue light
of the big-ass Wurlitzer at the pool where everybody
from the segregated ‘hoods of mid-city Baltimore
came to eat grease and wear grease and cannonball
off the high dive, I was ready. Frankie Lane sang
“Jezebel,” and in my head a couple lights went on,
one, D.A. guy didn’t realize I was twelve, and two,
Callie said “Jersey Belle” because she couldn’t read.


© Clarinda Harriss


Poetry    Essays    Fiction    Book Reviews

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