MK Hess: Body Talk


Odysseus, baby, come home!
We envy you, your life, not tempted.

We miss strong wrists that bind our waists,
we want to see all men laid by milking maids,

hips straddled by thighs
thick enough around to hold trees down,

boy, tie us to the bedposts—come into our houses.

To go from killer beast to some thing less threatening,

Soldier, cease your shivering. Lay down

your swiss army knife,
pleasing your need to protect
creatures who might be you,

even monsters.

Our legs unfolded, we wait.
Aren’t you, won’t you be, all the sea?

My loving man, sing.


We want, we pant, we chant.
We sit under bushes, stare.

The song we learn in school to sing
is unclear—

We’re on the second floor, sunk into earth,

on a field trip,
we brought paper bag lunches as evidence.

We ask questions the gods intended.

Our ponytails wave in tribute.

We sweat. We come
as conclusions. We lift our legs.

We stretch and try again.
Somebody ought to drive

the herd into the river—
not suicide, an act of mercy,

a prick, some pressure,
the organs’ pipes sopping pop.


H.D.’s male lover married her female lover
the good doctor

rips belly open pushes heart aside
V for his fingers to nestle his grunts

O Ezra who affixed a label
like a stamp O Freud who fled for British gardens

O lady who almost died in childbirth
O male lover O female

a small office in Vienna warm snow
fires in the north ending the world

precious tiny things for her to play with
metal boats stone gods paper weights

smashed skulls her
male lover her female

O Ezra O Freud O lady a man untying her laces
thumbs on her synapses

she didn’t wear a coat
her lover loved her lover

she called Freud kind they loved her
fur thick skin thin they lowered

her the male the female under the light
the doctor’s knife the first floor the bell

rung woman the hooked needle
patient the gods the lovers the child


When I was Frank Sinatra I wore blue jeans. I called my sister to come get me when a boy felt me
up at a dance. She was making spaghetti for her husband and toddler, she made me eat before taking
me home to my parents. During the car ride she said call dad next time. He wouldn’t understand. She said
grow a pair. I have always been a fast learner. Two nights later I broke into the local bar with pliers and
my friend John and I drank bourbon. We thought it would make our hair shine. We thought we would be
good at baseball, but all I’ve ever known is song. Would you like to hear a lullaby? I don’t want to give it
up. I feel it in my chest, the da da da of the opening beats. Please find a way to love me despite your
hunger. My mother called me a dark horse, when I asked what she meant, she stroked my head and said
good boy. Hang on, I’ve got to rearrange myself in my pants. Women never touch their crotches and it
takes a moment to get the hang of it. I bought these pants on North Broadway in Saratoga Springs with
these shoes. They’ve got that braided toebox, that contoured shine. I asked him how much, the man said
make me an offer. I said four dollars with the laces and pants, hemmed right. Now I always make an offer
before we begin, as I did with you. When I was Frank Sinatra I could feel men’s eyes following me and
not be angry, I could imagine being a housewife and being happy. I always bet on the third to place or
show. I sang to the coffeepot, vending machines, theater seats, I sang to the empty room.

5 It doesn’t matter Che it doesn’t matter The gun doesn’t go off The mountain isn’t scaled It rains We’re caught at the door of the party Turned away We’re drunk in the fountain at midnight Aren’t even smoking cigarettes We light candles at mass Sail kites in the village square Tie the leashes to rifles One desperate tug to fly It’s homicide We float paper airplanes over graveyards Languish in bed Mock bird sounds Che look what fun we’re having Che I beg Stay 6 Legs, birds, him, still alive,                                      tangled between hip and thigh. Listen, Picasso. Mother could not have prevented this rake across my nipple, wild violin of legs he’s cross-sectioned my head, field of slapstick grief:                         my legs quiver and shake. He claims me Mary. I take the donkey, I walk. Hey Pablo, hush. I’ve got one good eye and I intend to use it. I’m the spring rain, he’s the gutter, I rush,              a sword through the soft liver of our regret. 7 Prince cocks the gun. He uses my mouth to make round, hooting ooh sounds when others kiss. Raises my spirits up like they’ve been called first to the table, what a waste of electricity, the monkeys at the zoo almost get him there, they push and shove, teeth bared. A man shot in Florida with his own gun, the ape curious what his fingers could do given the right conditions: dry powder, hot explosion.              Bang. He tips my throat and leaves—the grease stains can’t be removed. The first time my back went out, it got scared straight. Too bad my dealers, the twins Estrogen and Adrenaline, can’t do the same. Cracking myself up, I use a sledgehammer, if the laughter sounds like howls, it’s a mistake. I’ll carry on once this house is demolished. 8 We love him a little less without a condom, lukewarm sound our pelvis makes, soiled sheets wrapping our corpse. He walks to the trash can twisting rubber in his hand. Galileo, Galileo, no little god! High domes were built to make our faces float up like birds, art-filled cities made to expose our throats. Oh scientist, come gravity our bodies, we are small, always begging to be dropped eggs spinning on the tabletop. Galileo, stereoscope the throb and thrum. We love this time: minds winding up like thunderstorms in summer, Galileo, Galileo, no water wings no wings at all. Our necks snap back. 9 If only I could remember how the lamb’s eye works. My teenage fingers sure on the scalpel. What Shakespeare lusted and lunged after— tea parties and hot tubs— yellow-checked dress for my birthday my sister made and string ends at the hips’ pink lining, good for guarding against. Low-hanging lights in Will’s grandparent’s basement, bare feet and underwear, my clothes stripping as the pool ball pockets itself sure as a watch. American bulldog in ruffled collar and leash, balding creeping from behind. Sixteen: a glove just come from the entrails. Here all of us stand, wolves in silk stockings, our swelling hearts, heels narrower than the bottle’s neck— Little girls, pissed, recalcitrant. Reckless.

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