ROMANCE WITH SMALL-TIME CROOKS

ALEXIS IVY

BLAZEVOX [BOOKS] Buffalo, New York

ROMANCE WITH SMALL-TIME CROOKS by Alexis Ivy Copyright © 2013 Published by BlazeVOX [books] All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews. Printed in the United States of America Interior design and typesetting by Geoffrey Gatza First Edition ISBN: 978-1-60964-105-4 Library of Congress Control Number: 2012941532 BlazeVOX [books] 76 Inwood Place Buffalo, NY 14209 Editor@blazevox.org

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BAD APPLE No one wanted to be my partner in History. I was the scapegoat who smelled of everyone’s smoke. Math laughed when I’d raise my hand. I was a bad apple, Alexis has to sit in front— druggie who had to scrub the science lab because she wouldn’t be part of the dissection of owl pellet. By high school I picked trash off the lacrosse field for cutting afternoon sports. Every Saturday, detention. Never remembered the combination to my locker, never tried. Mike was the guy who stood in the doorway all day, he would say, literally, figuratively. Scratch-Ticket Mike who took every penny I gave him to gamble on. Always patted my head, always gave me whatever he had that was too heavy. For a while he had a black umbrella he never used in rain, only on the heat-pulse days. It was okay to smoke cigarettes in the kiln room, the shelves topped high with hand-painted ashtrays. Nudity stuck up on clothespins strung along the dark room. No grades, no grading, teachers named Christy and Gary, and six therapists on call. And if I had a temper tantrum in English, I could drag the carpet out of the room just to hang onto my tears.

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HOMELIFE I’m the crop they planted. Sow and take root. Am I what they wanted? Or was that the Stairmaster? Their marriage is a brick house, a fight about how the porch light went out. I wanted to be hey-good-lookin’ like my mother, So-and-so got a house on the water, but I turned out big boned and poetic. I wanted anything but suburbs, some run-around back alley, not some campfire sing-along from swing set to golf course, and every night corn-on-the-cob salad at the kitchen table, and the Rolling Stones on the radio. My dad’s a deadhead so he’s on to me, my outlaw, my meal ticket, my thrill. I shut the door behind me. I always shut the door. I’m going to tell everything, everything. Thank me double for that. My brother knew how to fiddle me. All riled up crazed, and the bamboo lamp shade One more sniffle and I’ll hit you caught fire, and no one noticed how. Pushed me against the ivory table because I had to piss just when he had to wash his hair, mousse it up hard. I’d be mean if he’d be mean, swat magazines at him, chuck the remote

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control, no control, throw my parent’s last night’s chicken wings at him, cry all the way down into the downtown courtyard. (If you lived here, you’d be home now.) He was too old for the Belt. Soap in his mouth meant soap in mine. Back in the safari theme of our rented apartment, that summer I slept lightly on the sun porch floor, fake panther rug the size of a grave. Never let them off easy. Bones have to be picked. Can’t tell if I’m living them out, or if they’re living out me—to make themselves bleed.

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MY OWN FLESH AND BLOOD My heart is the wrong place to begin. A doctor tampered with my wishbone, carved scars belly to breast, the three that never healed, plus the one my brother made. A doctor tampered with my wishing bone, and I forgive my brother everything that never heals. The one my brother gave, I’ve saved. Kept those stitches tied. I forgive him for everything— the four scars carved belly to breast. I’ve saved those stitches I keep tied. My heart is the one place to begin.

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MUSEUM OF MY BEDROOM There’s a map on the wall, Indian Tribes of America, and another map of the Union divided by the Civil War. There’s also a rubbing I took of Doc Holliday’s gravestone, and three swiped Jolly Roger flags. I’ve got a copy of the last shot taken of Jim Morrison facing a black and white of my dad at nineteen, hung over. In a corner, stacked cigar boxes not too high, where I keep my savings: a Motel 6 room key, bus schedule to Joshua Tree State Park, a chunk of could-be-Hawaiian lava, a choya cactus twig, and sliced petrified wood. On top of my bureau, jokers from eighty decks of cards and a tin of skeleton keys I feel sorry for, fortunes, some from Chinese cookies, some from Zoltar, a lucky penny from when the luck ran out, two bullet shells, one from the quarry bottom, one from when we went to Yellowstone. On my desk are things that came before my time: Olympia typewriter from the fifties, a bowl of heart-shaped stones, animal teeth, ammonites. Also a frog’s leg taken out-of context, a deer antler, an entire beehive. I keep the windowsills empty. The floor’s a scatter of sheet music, hi-ho work songs, A Book of Convincing Legends, a basket of corks, the decks of cards (minus jokers) I use to practice flicking. I collect cigarette butts, ticket stubs, pencil shavings, and for no good reason, dead lighters. O, how I will save the broken down, my heavy load, my sole responsibility.

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THIEF We’re sitting in my room because the backyard might wrinkle his pants. He’s talking purse-snatching, break-ins, hiding in bushes. I didn’t get it, I don’t get him. Hours eating bagels at my house— my butter, my strawberry jam, like they starved him at home. He drank it whole, the glass bottle of orange juice. That’s all said and done. I should cry. I should just cry. He should go away so I could be someone else.

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COOL HAND LUKE For Paul Newman A world shaker, a dead shot, Luke, the first man ever to get my attention. I am hot tar and dry corn shucks and he’s running through in shackles. I like a man who’s hard to break. Luke digging the same hole twice until he drops. Christ— now even the movie screen’s gone black. With me it’s always Cool Hand Luke, the love story.

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LONG STORY SHORT He goes to the casino usually when golf season’s over, deserves the casino, my father who gets us kids presents at the shops there. For holidays on account of his affair with the roulette table. He doesn’t really ever run, just goes with the things that run. Being part of something really shows.

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I HAVE MY REASONS I hate boys, hate how if I give one a flower he’ll take it and pick a flower for another girl when he could’ve held mine longer. I used to eat cereal I didn’t like, boxes of it, and watched soap operas, one after the other. I also want to talk about the worst thing anyone ever said about me, worse than anything my brother said because it wasn’t said by my brother. Emma Rawels didn’t say it to my face, someone told me. She said it and I wouldn’t look in the window to see how I was looking. She said that I looked like I was hit in the face with a baseball. I thought she meant I had black eyes that wouldn’t go away, a fat lip. Thought she meant I slouched myself, face down to the ground like my body was a pile instead of a person. Isn’t everybody fruit on the way to rotten? I started showering twice a day. I like the smell of soap and sleeping

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with the storm windows open and my hair damp. I wear armpit hair instead of make up. I have my reasons.

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