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Category: Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Four Long Years At Court

I really miss the forest. And how

I used to hide there with the Queen.

I miss how we used to dance

and how we’d run from Court.

I miss the buttons (oh, her buttons),

how they’d shine in the late light

when she wasn’t looking at me

arriving in the thicket—

where she’d somehow gotten first.

I wish she’d step down for the first time

again to greet me. In the great hall

where all the beasts’ heads hovered.

All the torches lit her from within.

I was looking at the white bat cup the buck’s rack,

swinging in the firelight like a lantern.

I saw its bones. Saw the fingers

hook onto to the antler. There she was.

Beside me. Watching me not see her.

You look to your right and time becomes

a torch blown huge. It was like that.

The bat looked like an otter’s stomach

blown into a lamp. I told her so.

The way you will. If I had turned away.

Toward the ladies dancing. Toward

the door and walked out to the courtyard.

Toward the axes lined in rows and clean.

I miss how we’d walk into the clearings

and the caves. The deer walked up from the ravines

and stared. I wasn’t scared of them or me

even with the things I’d done. Not when

she was there. I was so enamored

of the bat. Swinging. I could see its body

through the thin shroud of its wings.

I thought, I could kill it with one hand.

There she was. Watching me think it.

Watching me shake the thought of other

things into the darkness of the hall.

She touched my shoulder. Did I sing?

Sometimes to myself. Sitting by the river

or in the night to keep me safe. Sometimes

my name softly to myself to remind me.

Once beside my mother who’d swelled

to the size of a sheep. The deer

is in the thicket. The fox is in the glade.

Like that ‘til she stopped breathing

and after as I watched the women

wash her. Not scared anymore,

neither one of us. I told her so.

How I sang. Of the fox and of the deer.

She held me in the clearing.

We could see the Towers

from there. It feels so long ago

and also like yesterday. Stepped down

from her throne and then together

in the forest. That fast and also

through the hours beside the King.

Turn toward me. I’d think it as she sat.

Turn. All the beasts’ heads waiting.

The boars’ mouths open. The lynx

with its pink tongue. The deer,

the deer, the deer one after another

on the walls. The hinds and harts.

The ten point stag I took down

as a mercy after the King missed

its chest seven times. I killed him

as he tried to crawl away. I sang

Stop. Sang, The deer is in the thicket

as his eyes rolled. The fox is in

the glade. I took his antler in my left

hand and pulled back, Hey lolly lolly,

pulled back until he groaned. I miss

the moment before it started,

the body just a figment, the deer

nothing but a song I sang beside

my mother as she died. It can

take forever. You can make a life

up in the time it takes to watch

your mother die. I was in the glade,

no I was in the bedroom, no

I was nowhere in the story.

Was nowhere to be found. I want

her back. I want the castle

and the bat. I even want the stag

who couldn’t make up his mind

if he should die or not. If he should

let me pull his neck back. Or not.

Get loose and double, I’d sing

alone in my room or on the train

or as I walked to work. The world

around, a tapestry. I’d cock my head,

I’d see the stag. I’d cock my head,

I’d see the men in business suits.

I miss the Queen. I want her here.

Beside me. The null point’s like a glade

where she’d lay me down beside

the stream. The beetles’ armies

resting on the rocks. The Towers

in the distance. Your friends are with you

then they’re gone. Your mother’s with you

then she’s gone. My armor shone

all morning, by nightfall it was blood and ash.

Hey lolly lolly. The fox is in the glade.

The debt collectors and the cans of soup.

One minute you’re a castle. The next

you’re just a cloud. Turn around.

Turn around in the late light.

If I cock my head I see the armies.

I could have walked from Court

and just kept going. Did I sing?

Ask the fox or the stag with his neck

pulled back. I want it back.

from Rocket FantasticFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

I like the twang and sometimes…

I like the twang and sometimes we can hear it on the radio or some guy gets a tape from home from his small town. Merle Haggard or Conway Twitty. It cuts through the choppers and the smells. It brings the women ’round to listen. I brought my radio from home, the one I mowed lawns for all those months, remember? That transistor makes me more friends than you can know. I go off by myself to listen and before you know it there’s a crowd telling me to find something better, not that stupid country stuff some soul or R&B some rock and roll. But some guys love it and tell me about their towns and how they listen at the general store. Like Carolina, which may sound kind of girly except he’s huge and humps harder and faster than any of us. T. doesn’t like him much but I do. We just sit and sing the songs together and laugh. He has this high voice that he just belts across the camp. I mean it’s like one of those Vienna Choir boys that Dad loves so much. He could not care less. Just sings “Stand By Your Man” until everyone is rolling or until some girl comes and takes him by the hand. They love him with his high voice not caring who hears him sing.

from Rocket FantasticFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Dry Season at the End of the Empire

Oh, yes the chariots were everywhere that summer.

Running the wide streets and kicking up dust.

No rain for weeks. That’s what we all said. No rain.

In drawing rooms. In parlours. At the card table

in The Dowager’s Palace, which was just some rooms

she kept at the hotel. Oh, the last days of Empire

when no one quite wants to go home. So dry! All the trees rattling

when the wind blows from the desert. Like bones, she’d say.

Like a dance hall full of skeletons. We played bridge

at the end of the Empire. The bowls were always full of almonds.

Fields and fields of almonds for us to dip our hands into

and take. Everything growing somewhere. Everything ours.

I am so bored, somebody would say. So bored.

Rattle. Rattle of the ring in the bridge mix. Rattle of leaves outside.

Once a red bird sat at the window and we all tried to name it,

when we knew full well it was a cardinal.

from Rocket FantasticFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Null Point

The first thing I learned was to look wide

at the darkness

and not want anything. He’d say, Just look

at the darkness

and tell me what you see. I’d say, I see stars or

Just the stars, Dad.

And he’d say, Don’t call them that yet. What do you see?

Just the stars, Dad.

But then I’d be quiet and let my eyes go and look wide

at the darkness.

It was like a dome. I think it frightened me to stare

at the darkness.

I see light. I see a million little lights. And he’d say

They aren’t all stars.

Some were planets and some were planes and I’d say, Yeah,

they aren’t all stars.

But not really believe it. But say it so not to feel stupid out there

in the darkness.

from Rocket FantasticFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Major General,

The Dowager makes tomato sandwiches

when I go to her house. We sit in the dining room

and Beverly brings them out, wearing her clean

dress that’s as white as the bread.

She cuts the crusts off. Beverly does. I say,

Thank you for making these to the Dowager

who makes the strangest face and just says,

Eat. We only eat them in summer

even here in California where tomatoes

grow all year. We eat them on china plates

at the long dining table with one of us at either end.

One time I tried to sit beside the Dowager. She stared

at me ‘til I got up and walked the long walk

to the other end. We do things properly here,

she said. And took a bite. I like it just the same,

the quiet as we eat. And how the tomato has that tang

when it mixes with the mayonnaise. Some days

Beverly brings me two and winks when the Dowager says,

You spoil her and mutters something about fat.

I’m not sure why she has me come except to ask about my father

or maybe Babe. Once I asked her about my Brother,

if she thought he was brave. She got up then

and said, I think it’s a long way to go to get away.

from Rocket FantasticFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.


Like the buck I am I turn my head

side to side. I hear the leaves

rustle. I shake my head a little

and birds reel ’round the forest.

I am no branch. My head turns

to the side. I see out my side eye.

The deep pool of the eye

sees itself pool in the mirror.

I oil myself ’til I am all a lather.

My chest heaves out

so my full heart can abandon

the ribs’ stockade. Where

the bullet would go if the hunter

were a good shot: that’s

where I place the razor.

I make my skin taut. I pull

my own neck back and to

the side. I come for myself.

Yes, I was a lady once but now

I take the blade and move it

slowly past the jugular, up

the ridge of my chin where

the short hairs glisten. I was

once ashamed. It was a thing

I did in private. My own self

my quarry. No more.

Look how the doe comes ’round

and also the doves and also

the wolf who lets me pass.

The fox offers me the squirrel’s

hide to buff myself to shining.

There is no such thing except

the smoothness of my face.

outside the window. And plenty

of people are dying in various ways.

And won’t the infrastructure fail

all on its own? Without me building

a bomb in the desert? These are the

kinds of questions that make me know

I’m not fit to decimate the planet.

Which is sort of sad to think

about. All that potential I’m just

giving up on.

from Rocket FantasticFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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