Words By Taisia Kitaiskaia, Art By Hailey Renee Brown
Prying the praise off my body
Was like prying a shell off an oyster—
I was hungry for it, it ran down my chin:
The desire for something to appear
Out of nowhere and be healing.
To believe in abundance—to believe
In raw carrots. To make pies where
There were no pies before.
To make soft little marks in the sand
And to stand there knowingly and without
I must return to the dictionary, my first love,
Who has so many long weeds and grasses
And an ugly pocketed coat teeming with toads
To be weary and wary as pigeons
To wield and be wielded in the black snow
The anger is making new captives
I thought I would emerge handless and footless
But I emerged entire and pretty
I remade language in my own image
Tired of making sense, filling a bucket—
just one big hole at the top, who cares
He had a short negative appearance, unlikable
As steel and ponies
An animal you could stamp with your own name
And a name you could wrap in fur
Somehow nobody thought I’d be here
Looking down at myself through the hole
Of what was left of my knees
With my tail on backwards and feet
Where my hands should be
A lurid little pose, showing off my big
Decisions and negligible disappointments
Men have died here and become my attitude
Each thing becoming another thing
Even while alive
Each leopard having its ball of treasures
Mice, mice and berries, will schism away
A little steppe, a little taiga wearing pants,
Tumbling through the wide lid, eating dogs,
Eating boar, my stripes are little portals,
My eyes are hot glue, inside each limb is a man
Building a castle
Tired of thinking in a straight line?
There are no straight lines inside a tiger
Contemptuous of poets, squatting
On their stumps. Poetry is the salami no one wanted
The heinous mouth always showing off
And no one looking. Wanting to mean something
But never quite committing. Tide sink, carbuncled
Thrown to the wolves and eaten up.
I was never so lost as when the tiger showed up.
When the tiger showed up, I put my pen on backwards
To match his tail. So nice and cozy here, where no one
Is looking and the elegant stars are awake as wishes.
My vocabulary oven is turned on
But all’s inside is Fruit Loops
Bright and wingéd
My veil droops and snoops around
Picking up Cheez-Its from the floor
And stuffing them in her purpose
How beautiful to be a washcloth counting the minutes
Which after all has such a big heart
It will take anyone in
My minions nipply as the day they were born
My nipples pickled and picky beyond all recognition
With my wound in my arms, I go dancing
Over the taiga and its tigers
The tiger is always looking and tearing into things
In this way he is just like my aunt, the sexy one
With the keychain and the tall boots, who goes strutting
Through the department stores of Poland, all big-wigged
And needly as pie, with big loose change in her eyes
Small snacks and big wives
Everything is right again
Who reads poetry? Even I don’t read poetry
I look at my poetry books like they’re loose bits of herring
Or loose bits of hearing, wriggling around
The leash ran away from me
And I had to build a capacity for the unnatural
A camel concealed in a mushroom
Is a story they did not tell you in Bible School
And I will not tell you either, exasperated squirrel,
Bleeding nun with her eye sockets private
And her parts scrambled as rain
The cosmic boom that long means nothing to anyone
Hell is a poetry reading that lasts for eternity
My mask is voluble and unredeemed
Special but not covered over
Big rummaging through the universe
Yielded one (1) horse, two (3) pencil sharpeners,
And four (79) misanthropes. These last
Were the hardest to catch—so many legs,
And all so brittle! The horse and the sharpeners
Gave themselves up willingly, with stars in their eyes.
Now that I have let down my hair, you see
How many spiders it contains, and all their PhDs
Big, little, boisterous, mouthy, crimped, blimped, pushy, cocksure, marmaladeous, quite—
That’s how you filled out my government form
Which is why we’re both serving life sentences of hard labor
And no one is talking about tigers anymore.
The wish-washing of snow and riddles
Keeps me sane. I call the moon closer
And ask for a whisk and a bucket.
The gods tell me I’ve gone astray
And my handkerchief is moldy.
What a trick money is, wearing
Her big balloon and small mustache.
Her birthday party at the roller rink
Bums everybody out. The fingerless
Monk beckons me over, gifting me
A welcome blueprint for a house
And a little monkey I can keep inside.
My sadness is your sadness. My pickle
Is want. This want grows tentacles,
Testicles, hair. I’ll meet you there.
The windmill ran after me. Armadillo kept his shoes on,
Which hurt my feelings. Salty and snowy leopards
Ate my meat. TV doomed us, made it real.
I was asleep for hours with the wrong person.
Running like geese, starving in the mood serene,
We reintroduce ourselves to the pecuniary evening.
You are Entranced William, and I am the scuffled toad
Eating your marginalia, glottal stops, pudding pies,
Swoons from the nether regions, waddling apples.
Irrelevant monkeys managed to dominate tech,
Their tails curl provocatively in their pant holes.
Now all we have are the idiotic curtains, blowsy
And magical, each inch a dirty boy, and everything
We do is radical. (But how radical can I be, really,
Paying $76 for a delivered dinner in America?)
Quasi-International Criminal #1 strapped his stocks on:
“Give me your best whales,” he said. They’re all like that—
Wanting what no one can give, asking with a gun.
So there’s the perversion, and the bleeding tusk.
What marches through my mind marches for thee.
The bloat in my foot is equal to all the money in Canada.
Enchanted William! Throw down your loose coils,
Your wandering grape! Your two-toned nightmare!
Wandering William, how sad: so Enchanted at first,
Then you changed. At the beginning of us, there was
Our nose. Then, the phalanges happened. The song
Continued down our particles, and there we were
At the end of the foot. But we weren’t dead yet.
The electricity took over and we became toxic toys
In the mouths of preschoolary gods. Darling William!
Your phalanges flustered me. We were tsars together
In the beautiful garden, but then the peasants came,
And we saw they, too, had eyes, and so the revolution—
As long as time has gone on, there has been suffering
And children playing at night. The wolves of yesteryear
Are the coats we wear today, against all better judgment.
When we are alone, then we feel most comely
And most sick. A pain in the abdomen that sweetens
To a halt—the salt you’ve been storing up in your room
While I toiled at the salt factory, what the fuck was that
About? Each stone promises the answer. Someone said
My poetry is repetitive, but that person is so ugly, no
Crows will ever look at them. That is a deep ugliness,
The kind even crows see, they who only see survival.
Tough luck! We are at a middle school dance party
Of unliterary men filling their pockets with cake.
It’s disgusting. Unattractive barnacles propose to me
And I’m like, “No thank you.” It’s nice to be haughty,
Smug again. This is a pleasure the war denied us.
Those keeping you from the truth are lying to
Their own tiny, disappearing faces. Impossible arc.
Dreamy goodies. In the ballet of the mind, the mind
Is readying itself at stage left. Little hands, bulging
Calves, affect. Something familiar about this mind:
Like the little piece of you an old boyfriend keeps
And sleeps with, a beloved pillow under his arm—
But this mind is jellyfish-awake. Look at it:
Trembling to go out, be seen, to pirouette
While the revolution grinds on.