By Renee Agatep
After Lynn Emanuel
If I could feel nothing but the sequins,
every edge scalloped along elastic, I would know everything
about the years before lithium, lithium flushed.
If her face were lit overhead in spotlight, I would know
this burned-out sign once read GIRLS, not just two but three times,
and a long-haired bouncer served whiskey stiff as a matchstick.
If I could see nothing but the knobs of her wrists I would know
about the pool tables and poles, and I could reconstruct
the overbite and spoil of her summer years, the spring
my mother was a Gorgon with braided hair sleeping
in an iron-frame bed and channeling spirits.
I could sit in the backseat of her hot-wired wagon
and keep her forever from a glovebox of condoms
among screwdriver starters, revolving door stage names:
Jennifer. Jessica. Stephanie. Christina.
I could put her Virginia Slims in my pocket
and wear memory’s see-through skirts
with her pepper spray concealed in the bones absent cleavage,
a smudge of rouge could cut my cheek, a red lip spent on my teeth.
I could become the young woman who always got wistful
when she spoke of New York, especially Manhattan¬
If I could follow the veins that tunneled
her hands, I would know what drove her
to this godforsaken place, I would take her back East,
build fire walls in her head—high as hips in metallic sequins
or the billboards overhead, she could live in the gold
before Fantasy West.
This poem originally appeared in Issue 9 of Stanchion.
Photo by Kier… in Sight on Unsplash.