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The Milk for Free

by Brooklyn Copeland
Scantily Clad Press, 2008

With special thanks to the editors of Canopic Jar, Openned, Burnside Review and Death Metal Poetry, where some of these poems first appeared in slightly different versions.

A Femur is Not a Female Lemur And we are not real feminists, sister. The bickering gaggle before us threw that baby out with the bath water. We are barely even legal when our shoulda- couldas come back to bite us. The woulda flu shot; the woulda car insurance. In Helsinki I have seen a toothless, man-faced queen. I have wound my scarf around my cheeks and chewed the topskin from my lips to keep from fainting with laughter in the street. I woulda an ounce of prevention. Sister, we are a hapless second helping with twenty-twenty vision. I coulda sold you good wool over. We shoulda warned once the signature’s signed. This time, it is Liberty, not Justice, who is blind.

The Milk for Free Was he Dutch who crooked his thumb to hitch a weathered Mack truck, abandoning the dam? Who’s to know in this climate a plugged dike from a plugged dike, a political from a sexual hangnail, a snag in a hand-me-down fairytale? Or was he gentle and saucer-eyed, lamenting the long-drawn suicide of an English rose? Was he Danish? A towhead townie on a bike? A nouveau-riche slice of gateau? Did he puncture your babyish peach-skin with glistening incisors? So was he Spanish? An inquisitive, blue-moody, barrelchested cubist chasing chunky groupies up the Cote? Was the elk heart the calling card of his bodice-ripped Transylvanian? His fur-lined fraulein? His cerise-trimmed Canadienne? I saw him, the perverted joey-mutt, nestled smugly against the cheeks of Garbo, the bosom of Loren. Is he Fascist now, done with his famous impressions? So was that him last night at Big Sur? At a guardrail on the Seine?

Derby, Said Darby I read you came from influenza just to enough’s enough and croak of last-straw broken-heartedness, of camel’s back and crow’s feet. That you jigged up clapboard walls and personalized your Valhalla with a pebble skipped over Baikal, with a stolen, blue jazz static. That your fingers smelled of matches, strike-anywhere and safety, and your palms were creased and oily, and your palms passed dollar-note psalms. That you pulled a Paul-Celan, sleep-walking to the April bank to mourn a fallen star, to pour a villain beer.

Nation, One Day you’ll traipse through the sponge-red and they’ll unwind the cord of your purple-gray reliance from your whale-neck. Your first song will be Mama. Your second, Alliance. We’ll trade carefully measured lullabies. You’ll arrive having known Every Good Boy Does Fine. And you’ll grow into mine, my baby treble cleft, my right hand. Even before, you were glowing, a plotted star, a firefly caught in my cat’s cradle. These songs you’ll know the way you’ve known bone-char and water-glass percussion. The acid reflux concussion. A half-year of blue-eye. Before, your true yodel pierced the hovering sky, and I listened. I always knew you’d be you, before ambition stretched my womb.

For M. Simberg You’re a thinner spitting image, a mangy Harry Haller, the dog-bone paintbrush pinched between his beige lips. You’re his boy-man in a bowler, his dream-perceived black wash. His pre-Magritte dimensions; all the macabre, none of the fruit. His side-glance and white-smocked brooding. His blood and impulse on a drum-machine. You’re his wild archipelago ghoul, ears like wings and knees drawn up like knobs on a faucet: hot and cold. You’re his grinning skull cloaked in a smoking sweater. You were shy that day on the cobblestones. Shouldering his name, I tried saying it as yours.

In Passing That year you believed me asleep and spilled the beans: really, I was dead. They laid me romantically bare on a doused pyre, the hastily-smithed diadem tangled in my hair. In pale pink slippers, your dolly is crying and pissing. I think you named her Lindsey after that one man, Lindsey Buckingham. You used to sing all night, a nightingale. Lady Bell Jar, in a farthingale, your footfall hushed by your pale pink slippers. I was not comatose up there, I was roasting. In your place. I might come back as a black pearl, or a pea of cinnamon toothpaste from an aluminum tube. Or, in your place, I might come back as you.

Sister Georgia Peach, your downy cleft features pinkly in Blue Jean’s dream. Nightly sighing, he lets slip the shared-smile smells of Dutch clover and hot crotch lace, and sleeping sees the lotioned legs clamped akimbo around his face. Figuring hard those racy eights against the Dixie bars of his buckle, Blue Jean admits his sin down the twin barrels of Ginger Ale’s pistol.

Kate She was cat-eyed and turtlenecked, flicking her kretek over a pop can, shale bangles jangling like so many airport tambourines. She was fur-tongued and blurry-worded, wobbly on her ankles, top-heavy and mouemouthed, powder-nosed and sloppy, bursting from her barstool like a weasel from a mulberry bush. Her teeth were rows of ice in a tray; her poems Rorschach blots on a page. And the stick-fig-faux-scoliosis pose? Stage-wise, she had one of those and she worked it like any blank-faced waif in shredded runway clothes. In crowds she laughed alone. Her soul was lost but her cry had heart, and when she asked we fell apart and spotted her the dough. Which she probably blew on blow. And that’s the last we knew of Kate.

Auntie Bolstering her womanlies within a brassier of Kevlar, a prayer in ink shoulder-side; a butterfly tramp-stamp spanning lower back-wide. Stories, does she ever. Goes on like no tomorrow. One thing I like: her resolve to stay pink. Her new shock-hair is emblazoned in my periphery: the peppermint floribunda in a bush of modest brunettes. Her eye-slits rimmed in white-bunny red. Her candy-glass heart-mirror Lolita lunettes. Her Sophie shorts hollering citations from the crack. Her brash, suggestive cadences teasing from the track. One thing I like: her fecklessly accepting. Her hugs of fatigue and chocolate-tinged nicotine. Her talk of healing crystals and a psychic Christ. At her insistence, a sly planetary rise. Her forty years and forty nights of gracing covers, clockwise.

Pity Cassandra the gimmick of knowing fiction before its promotion by a gullible wife to a terrible truth; pity the sleuth with the damning third eye. Pity this ditzy concubine. Pity the trick who teased the prick belonging to a god. The cunt-stain on the negligee? The lip gloss on the beer stein? The bra strap on the harp neck? All truths best left as lies. Cassandra, prattling prize, hiccups, predicts, then dies.

Brooklyn Copeland was born in Indianapolis in 1984. She has since lived in Florida and throughout Northern Europe. Her personal blog is located at She co-edits Taiga, a new journal of poetry and translation.