Michelle Chan Brown’s Double Agent was the winner of the 2011 Kore First Book Award, judged by Bhanu Kapil.
Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Linebreak, The Missouri Review, Quarterly West, Sycamore Review, Witness and others. Michelle received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was a Rackham Fellow. She was a Tennessee Williams scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and received scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Wesleyan Writers’ Conference. Her chapbook, The Clever Decoys, is available from LATR Editions. She lives with her husband, the musician Paul Erik Lipp, in Washington DC, where she teaches, writes, edits Drunken Boat, and co-curates the Café Muse reading series.
Let’s admit the invitations were classier than the party.
Admit humiliations piled up strict as brick. The addition
is built on foam and organs soft in spoil, but the path
is pruned. The door’s a rictus. Come in. Enlist. Sign up.
Shut up, and praise the end of weather; the birds’ ballade,
uranium-enriched; the vodka, odor-free, inside the child’s
monster cup of lemonade. Praise be the elasticity of the
president’s extra liver. The drones aimed for the confessional
and missed. At least they drown out weeping priestesses,
the chatter of a trillion open wombs. We own our homes.
We turn our televisions off their food. The children come
pre-shrunk to fit our arms with laser accuracy. Our privacy
folds and folds, a ghostly origami, into the company briefcase.
Let’s attend to matters simple and domestic – like early puberty
and the rising rates of hubris in our boys. The village girls
desire an education. Get them brained. This will not do,
our homespun heirs vacating offices vivified by money,
returning broke and broken to resurrect as butlers, folding
napkins of rage into flowers for the Brahmin’s buried noses.
Give us silk, silk, silk. The newest bullets hiss like vintage teapots.
Mating insects. No animals were harmed in the making of this.
The worm. The ring. The mystery meat. The good-bye
note stuck to a stranger’s countertop, the hope
of line-strung laundry. The smallest pause preceding
the break-ins. I’m sorry. I don’t love you. I don’t get
the joke. My mother’s gold sewn in the California King.
The pantry’s lock. The color of a belly’s dolor. You asked,
What runs in you? I said, not blood. Yellow scratches the bedroom
door, fingers the bouquets of bridesmaids, faces wasted best.
What we crumpled, what we left unopened, what liquefied
in the snifter. The hair of women in a Chattanooga church,
the sneer behind the hymnals, the grip of teenage queens
as October snuffs their cars. Every girl has the heart
of a mother-in-law, a fresh candle in her throat. Yellow
is the dream of sex, and yellow is frigidity. The final isle,
the sweat-through collars of vacations, the creatures made
to make us scream. Don’t fret: yellow will return to the site
of carnage. Yellow never bothered to look down. Yellow is
eventually. Is tomorrow and tomorrow is another day.
Rhett, not Scarlett, obviously. We will never be lit right
for the movies. Yellow is the father climbing trees. The baby,
quiet as mushrooms. And the copter’s light that found her.