Silver-Tailed Squawk

Mermaid 2 - Copy

by Maggie Boles

I’m thinking of a word that begins
with s and I’m thinking of
the beginning of it all before you
were as good as dead. Like the way
your thumbs cracked the first time
you brought home the annotated
Alice. You had just memorized Whitman and
I, Jabberwocky, and that night we walked
home down Gaviota past your old house
and found a broken crack pipe in the front
lawn, dawn fog thick like squirrels breath
meandering down the middle of the street
reciting and then recalling our favorite
passages and taking turns rolling five
calcified wolves’ eyes around in our
palms, relishing the victory we’d claimed
over those bioluminescent orbs now
useless and cold and unseeing. Passing
your house I remembered the breeze
that moved everything very slightly
at first and how then the whole curtain
was only a pile of marigolds with a
thousand plumbeous gnatcatcher beaks
open and ready for second breakfast or
some clumsy words in any tongue other
than English. The first time I spent the night
I saw three bottles of two buck chuck lined
up against the wall like bowling pins and
you poured me a glass after breaking three
with erratic gesturing and we smoked a cigarette
in your bed afterwards because you offered
and I think it made you feel European and
I think it made me feel European too flicking
the ash into a coffee mug, my hair sticking to your
shoulder in the heat and rising up in swirls around
you, now sitting alone on the back porch, a fly
in your scotch, and your face in Ulysses looking up
only to ask, were the borogoves really mimsy and can
the mimsies be borogove too and do we ever
forgive anyone really or do we just build and build
on top of ruins and hope someone cares
enough later to dig it all up and put it in a glass case
with a notecard that reads ——————

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