Turning Point

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Sample Poems by Lindsey Royce



My Fist That Punched the Window
 
I removed the sutures too soon,
let them pucker into keloid
 
lumps, poked them to find
fragments of oh and yes,
 
like relics awakening,
welcome as winter sun.
 
Glass, blood, and pain
came out of the wound.
 
What had seeped in
was the pulse
 
of my voice—poised
to escape into song.


My Father’s Heart
 
Four score and seven beers ago,
my father scoffed at the Liberty Bell
the day we toured Philadelphia: first flag,
art museum, Franklin Institute’s walk-through heart.
 
Down the walls of its atriums, I slid,
stuck my arms into pulmonary veins,
played Venus flytrap with valves,
woo-wooed in the vena cava.
 
The smooth walk-through heart thumped,
glug-glugging like a drowning timpani.
That heart was a healthy rose, the valves
big enough to stick my head in.
 
Years later, Dad’s heart balked in its socket,
the EKG glowing like a radar screen,
lights blinking like fireflies I would catch
and jar on summer nights.
 
He trembled under the snowflake gown,
as if beneath new powder, and I was moved
to witness his pain, the brute I knew
restrained by wires little thicker than hair.
 
He snarled, Get off the fucking call button,
or I’ll cut your fucking hand off.
My father refused the call button
as fierce as the host at church—
 
No succor from God or the nurse,
no extra pills in a hospital cup, no pharos
glow of the firefly’s tail, nor moment
of flight before the flutter stopped.


My Mother’s Chores
 
On hands and knees,
scrubbing the floor,
the kettle’s shriek
sends her
rushing
to the burner.
I hear the suck
of water
draining
before she dashes
dough with flour,
presses, patty-cake,
with heels of hands,
a crust for
apple pie.
When her hearing aids are in,
she answers the phone,
chats with convivial
desperation—
He never thanks me,
her voice a ship
lifting in a stormy sea.
Sweet-smelling stew
seethes in the pot.


The Little Engine That Could
 
How you’d rage for my mouth
or any soft place you could strike hard enough
to knock me across the backseat of that Fury,
but I refused to learn, to behave, my soul
dying of thirst, like a plant you forgot to bring back.
You hated being mother and father,
so you hit more, knocked the say-cheese smile
off my face for photos, smacked me again
for not smiling. There’d be no wasting
the work you put into starched dresses,
patent leather Mary Janes, white gloves, holiday hats—
and, later, when my wounds started showing—
depression, deliberate overdose—you dressed them
with money, the only way you knew to help.
You’d press furtive cash in my palm
with the remorse of a relapsed addict,
leave me to friends, professionals—to anyone
who could, who would save the girl you loved.


My Wound
 
My wound is delinquent, impudent; carries
A barefaced chain that would hold you hostage
Coils its fists, skin on fire, consumed entire to char
 
My wound hurls rocks at the faultless wall
Lays its fevered head on your breasts
Tears inking your body
 
My wound is the beak of a baby robin, neck straining for worms
My wound is a canyon where a climber falls to untimely death
My wound, like my sex, is hungry
 
With its mouth that opens and shuts
Hinged, my wound will not stay closed
It’s the broken window and hand that smashed it
 
Printing press and conveyor belt
My wound sends news all over town
Its envelope’s sealed, then slit open
 
It’s a hymen broken for a life of touching
Its coyotes rip a fresh kill
It’s an oyster with black pearls in its mouth
 
My wound is out of breath, a chrysalis exhaling its butterfly
It’s a tunnel, an exit, an off-ramp
Busts the windshield, bloodies the bat
 
At night, my wound flies through the cosmos
Burning holes in sky’s dark skin
By day, my wound walks, sun burning its shoulders
 
 
My wound is selfish, would swallow you whole
Break into your house at night
Curl like a cub at the foot of your bed
 
My wound says fuck you and please love me
It won’t heal but for your hands, your voice
When my wound stops retching
 
And you, who have no fear
Intrepid, you fight, no nunchucks or gun
Give empty hands that take mine
 
Give empty arms that hold me
My wound leads to nowhere, to all
But for you, it suddenly quakes with thanks


Watching Her Neigh
 
If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse . . . but surely you will see the wildness! —Pablo Picasso
 
Rear and crash, rear and crash—her fists slam down on the hood of his Mustang. You promised me, you promised, she sobs, pounding the ’66 classic, light blue.
 
She howls, You lying cheater, his face stunned as if tasered, blush zesty for bystanders. She growls and heaves a rusty bike on the white ragtop, ripping it.
 
Clearly on behalf of the Mustang, a groan from a male onlooker: That restoration’ll cost big bucks. No one intervenes.
 
The young man bear hugs her and they spin and she bites him and tries to break free. He lets her go, springs in his car, and drives off, tires skid-marking pavement.
 
Someone says, Piss and vinegar. Someone else says, That car’s fucked. And I think of material costs for restoration: wrenches, screws, glues, pliers, polish, paint. I’ve spent years reinventing, and the best I could make of me is an abstract Picasso:
 
feet where eyes should be, sex where mind should be, all elbows and knees, deformed, disfigured, warped. Where I’d liked to have been his Woman in White, I became the model in Ne Se Tordant les Chevaux:  
 
triangular-based pyramids for legs, spherical rear and breasts, cuboid neck, axis waist, and an oval-shaped face tipped skyward, my hands fixing my hair.
 
Oh, my body! Balanced strong and wild on those legs, intact, peaceful, having stampeded the blue pigment from my heart, pain draining as slowly as paint strained through paper, through a sieve, like water wrung gently from my long, dark hair.