Lisa Marie Basile (poetry)


The Me Bird

It is a clean, cold magnificent bird strewn across the table, the morgue for wild things. It has a name; it had a name, though no one remembers. The bird speaks Spanish in an Argentine way, has no shame in her life-song, was born in a pool of black pearls and warm wine. I wanted to be you, diced up, my wings held from the ceiling, rulers prodding my ancient nails, my body like a worn blanket across the portal of a cave, shielding small and homely things and inspiring god to create herself. I am birds kept in black boxes, birds in cages. I am the blind ornithologist sprouting wings too small for lift. A small bit of Icarus in me, I tumble, tumble fixated on our star, on flight, on speaking languages like the birds do, tumble humming in an accent, chirping through the autopsy of me. You find in-grown wings inside my chest.

Inspired by Mayonaise

Remember when we found the canary
logded like a dead tooth in a hole —
Summer teenage blood, we pretended
to be birds, to be brown birds.

We were brown birds without wings,
we were a whole aviary of misspelled bird names,
misspelled years like a collection of
tiny broken bones. How we wanted to fly.

Magnificent and young, cursing and flirting
on a bridge in Spanish for drinks:
Tequila por favor? Our sorrow, our teenage kingdom.
We drank before our bodies broke our cocoons.

Remember? Remember the constellations?
They dictated our Mondays, our blood.
They did our hair with their own two hands.

I remember loving everything so little
I would jump from windows if the heat
got too bad, would jump from windows,
photographed like angels or martyrs
a skinny, flightless bird.

I would jump from windows if the heat
was too much, too much, too young,
too young to understand flight.

Remember when we envied funerals?
To wear that much red lipstick,
to be so pale, to have our wings, finally,
tucked into the satin crevices of coffins.

Soon, I pulled up my socks & through the linen
my legs grew little bits of hair
like a newborn wolf, wings coming out
like abnormal growths.

Death Song

I am for sale to death in a white room,
am fingers wearing a wedding ring
of yellowed merchandise tags.

I am just a body, you are just a body.

We are bat-bodied, arms stretched out.
Scalpels digging the secrets out of our armpits.
We are sewn up, crooked carousel tigers
leaping over wrought iron constellations.

We are fast going toward musical places,
pretending our arms are trinkets.
Pretending that money is painless, is ancient
fruit muddled in sweet mexcal. To be folded up

and carried like a charm. It’s easy.
It’s easy to be dead, to be boxed in,
to be embroidered. To pretend we have hooves.
It’s easy to live with shadows. It’s easy to know

everything has one. When I finally sleep
they’ll say, her mouth was fat and stubborn.
They’ll say she’s laid out and wide like her father.

I am a hourglasses of nightfall
and my mother is clean, white things.

I carry the dead in two palms
like my father. And they’ll say

this coffin is a daybed and she is a queen.
I am for sale, am real, really just a bag of meat
hung out the windows, purchased by the cool
black spasm of time.

Prairie Woman

You are in a clawfoot tub, hands draped open on either side.
You are windows wide, tumbleweed coming past, three young boys

staring up at you at the end of a brown summer day.
Their bodies too hard
        working to possess thoughts of you.

The whole prairie waits on your rising from the water, breasts
like icebergs rising when the sea pulls back, the turning of a dead
carousel just to look at you.

The night is your butler, waiting for the wave of a handkerchief,
devonshire cream pressed against boiling, damp skin, circled
into your knees over and over as you stare past nothing, and farther —you,
unpetaled, your body the sound of un-oiled swings in the park at night.

You cause the fever dream of a man who cuts his own hair without looking,
the canvas for emunction, the doctor’s queen. He pulls throngs of pain from
you, botulism caused by a jar of phantoms.
Or tarantism! Or memories. Breasts and arias
your father and your mother mating a moment before dawn.

You’re always not in the dark,
                                      and always not in the light.

He pulls these things from you: your rapist and your ingrown wings.
He pulls your memories like weeds overgrown and poisonous.
He extracts your religion like cotton soaked in blood,

and when you fall asleep in water, in a cool bathtub,

in a prairie farmhouse, the cicadas round your windows to drop their shells
                                      and honor you.


by Lisa Marie Basile

Return to Issue 51