PORTIA ELAN



EQUIVALENCIES

Your tattoo reaches all the way across my back: & I always thought it would be better: if my father never saw it. Did you hear my apology? : I want to show up to your wedding or whatever: drunk as fuck. Because of this particular shame I can go swimming with my mother: but not my father.

You used to make Velveeta dip but never said Sorry: I think about being in a bar & accidentally meeting your estranged father: who was really not like my father. A lot of psycho stuff goes here that you thought was whatever: You were less sensitive than you thought but let me tell you, if I went back: maybe I could have loved you better: than your mother.

Let me tell you — when I’m sick I can’t imagine getting better: The princess on her glass mountain will be whatever: we want. I’m too ashamed to call my father: I have elaborate dreams where I am kissing the princess & she’s your mother: I’m not sorry: But I’ll take it back.

The princess said to her mother: “Not to be too dramatic, but this constructed femininity feels like living in a constant apology”: Your mother’s dead so her advice can’t make you a better: lover. The princess said, “How did you know you loved my father?” : No matter how stupid, my reasons are there. Can’t take that shit back: The princess said, “Girls with long hair make me weep.” Whatever.

When you tattooed me & asked about the pain I said, Keep going, it’s whatever: sort of how you told stories about your mother: We fucked mostly with me on my back: You brought everyone up from the dead just to make them say Sorry: Yeah, you hated your dad: but that made me love you better.

When I think about my father: I want to cut off my breasts & go back: age 9, driving to get a portrait done for my mother: I forgot my hairbrush on purpose because I thought my hair looked better: unbrushed. That was my great defiance. Or whatever: This was supposed to be a love story but it’s not & I don’t think I’m sorry.

I thought love meant laying back — my mistake — or whatever: I wish you would get over your mother: but I’m not sorry; if I’m honest, I couldn’t love you better — you were more like yours / not enough like my father.




RHETORICAL QUESTIONS

portia3




MARCO           POLO

Call
Spiller of coffee & smeller of sheets, you: push, push: is it iron & what that make steel: over: like a beat: climber of towers (you’ll take that as a good thing): you are not steel, Portia, or whatever: spiller: make up your mind: the arch loves every – even the weakest stone.

Response
Lecturer of clean, of neat, of palms I could eat from: mistress: whatever: Portia Portia: you jeweler: smith: be honest: even you can’t eat stones, no matter how pretty: go on, pray: for a knife, a loaf, a crust: honestly: just new names for old love.




HOW NO SONG CAN BRING THE SPIRIT BACK UNLESS THE SINGER HAS FAITH & DOES NOT TURN AROUND

In Missouri we were together: red wolves by the river
& it’s easy to remember that fondly / easy to remember just the sweet water call.
We ran from the divers who dredged for the bodies of the jumpers from that high iron bridge.

The song, this song of not loving a good man is ledge song, edge song, song of broke voice, tired
liver
I keep singing until the birds tell me to stop & even on past anyone’s sympathy.
I can’t let go. In Missouri we were together. Red wolves by the river.

O I’m making love to other lovers & I’ve smoked the opium until I’m a housecat
but what Meredith says most often is I’ve got to shut it with the heart talk / stop talking ‘bout
how
we ran from the divers as they dredged the river for the bodies of the jumpers.

We knew the jumpers – I thought they might be our other selves, the divers too.
We could have been the river even; I wanted us to be it all as we stood there
red wolves together by the edge of the river.

But in all my selves there wasn’t enough love & I can’t stop saying this again, again & over,
ever
If we were the wolves, we were the jumpers & the divers & the river & still I wasn’t.
& I ran from the divers as they pulled up the bodies of the jumpers.

This is the taste of looking back, isn’t it? The Mississippi water.
This is the last call you’d want to get / I’ve sung too many times but I remember:
In Missouri we were together & red wolves by the river,
& we ran together from the divers who dredged for the bodies of the jumpers
from that high iron bridge.




THE TERRIBLE PRAYER

When the Mormons come to my door I tell them
My heart is as unfathomable and disgusting as the sea

and they are puzzled but kind so I invite them in for tea.
A little Mormon tea party I tell the cat, and she in her cat-ness is nonplussed. That puss.

On with the kettle! Two of them two men (I imagine their white underwear).
What stories shall I tell them? Jesus Jesus Jesus and Joseph Smith.

My heart I tell them would polish the moon with its tongue
if you could guarantee salvation.

It sounds, the taller one says, like your heart is hungry for Jesus.

They have fine golden hair on their knuckles
they are golden golden boys. Once I fucked a Mormon boy

until he cried we cried we both cried and we crawled
from the bedroom to the living room where we cut another line

and began it all again.

My heart is a roof shedding snow, how the heat rises off the stove
how the snow’s grip loosens until it can’t help but drop itself over.

Have you ever shed your snow, I ask the Mormons.
I wish I could show you, I say and I can see they’re afraid I’m going to do something drastic

like take off my clothes or ask to see their underwear or maybe
stretch my stockings over our faces so we all three look the same.

But all I do is sigh. Jesus. My hands are sweating.
They want to give me their pitch and I –

I want to know –

The cat jumps up on the table and begins
lapping the forgotten tea.



PORTIA ELAN lives in the Pacific Northwest with her Gemini cat. She has completed three post-secondary degrees, a fact which does not impress her cat. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, The Journal, PANK, and Birdfeast, among others. Sometimes this impresses her cat.

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