Thursday Jul 18

joseph.jpg Allison Joseph lives, writes and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where she directs the Southern Illinois University Carbondale MFA Program in Creative Writing, serves as editor and poetry editor with Crab Orchard Review, and directs an annual summer writing conference for teen writers. Her next book of poems, My Father's Kites, will be published in 2010 by Steel Toe Books.
Come here you slut of a word,
let me lay you down and stroke you
until both of us spin in the joy
of easy access, safe passage,
no stumbling over curbs, no fumbling
over straps and snaps my too-blunt fingers
can’t open—let your flesh bubble free,
rise to the surface to meet sun, rain,
other elements of weather so
occasional as to be erotic: monsoon
surges, liquor-laced Delta storms.
You and I go way back, seventh
grade at least, and I didn’t mind
that you flirted with everyone,
air kisses all around, never hesitant
to flash a silky leg, swell of décolletage.
I’d heard rumors of your promiscuity:
stories that you’d sleep anyone—
and for certain, I saw you tramping it up
in college, making the rounds in the library:
helping the lit majors first, then the science
geeks, then finally the red-eyed math
majors who sat straight up in triumph
when you whispered by, hair levitating
on backs of narrow necks. Some call
you “whore”—too many people get “it”
when you’re around, and there’s a world
of “it” we’re all not supposed to get,
code not to be cracked, safe whose
combination has been eternally lost.
But you don’t care, tearing your shirt
open to reveal that combination tattooed
across your chest in deft calligraphic
script, red numerals I can’t wait
to run my fingers over, a kind of
Braille no one is unworthy of.
’80’s Night at the Casino Boat
We’re all a little fatter than when
we last loved these tunes, some
of us balder, but all of us remember
how to sing along, how to bob our
heads, tucked far from the gaming
floor’s easy neon promises.
The lead singer still sings
in raspy bliss and fury,
as if the same girl who broke
his flimsy heart has kept her
rock star poses, as if he’s still
playing in his stepdad’s garage,
though, from the looks of him,
he is somebody’s stepdad, or
somebody’s uncle, the long-lost
kind, dirty jokes and tour
van tales spinning out every
family reunion. He peers out
at this crowd stuffed in their
chairs, says this is like a high
school reunion, forty years later,
and we laugh with him, our
paunch his paunch, his guitar
slung over his belly as if on its way
to an inevitable decline.
But we can fight that skid
by singing along, proving
we were breathing in the 80’s,
garish decade when radio
still played bands too ugly
for television, British Invasion
only twenty years gone,
long before downloading, viral
videos. The drummer can drum
like anyone—Ringo, Levon,
Bonham—lead guitarist and bassist
riffing young man solos
until we finally break
from our church row seating,
start swaying and shuffling
toward the stage, aging bones
liquid under the spell of songs
stored away somewhere on
cassette, the saddest-looking
groupies ever defying our own
ankles to shake what our
ex-wives left us, losing our
orthopedic brittleness
in these three-minute blasts
from the Smitheerens, bonus time
tonight for the gamblers
and losers, dealers and winners,
all our brilliance glowing
until the final chord thrums.