Anne Marie Rooney, “Story with red heels in its mouth”
This week, we’re pleased to bring you three poems by Anne Marie Rooney.
Story with red heels in its mouth
She was a princess and I was a princess. This is to say, we were both princesses.
She was the princess of silver before we knew it and also of rubbing. I was the princess
of chainlink and butter and after each recess my girl hands still kissed
with the feeling of clouds where they’d rubbed against granite because yes, even then,
I wanted to save her. Because she was east of where I was I had to travel east
to get to her. Each afternoon I wound my mouth from the mouth of the golden river,
I began to travel and I could feel my teeth turn in. I tuned my path only to the scent
of her perspiration. The sky was sweating also, for it could feel me moving my longing
under it. It was not her, exactly, that I longed for. It was a vacuum rougher than air.
The whole kingdom crept with a static, knowing I was coming. But the birds were still
birds. Our fathers were clouds of the hardest cloud, and I passed under and away from them.
It went on like this, the path was long and if you asked I would say I did not remember how hard it
thrummed against me, how it felt me moving and did not open
like a sea opens, how in fact it closed very hard around my hand and did not open
again until it felt my pulse still live and heavy, and how then the trees fell silent
and the fences fell silent and were golden and silent, and I did not listen to their silence
but kept moving my feet.
Now is a silhouette. Now is a cold ballerina dancing forever. It is after that.
She and I are turning and turning. I rub once more against paper and leave it
tucked behind her throne. And we kick off our red heels. Our red heels go flying
into the white wall and the black wall and the next wall and the next.
What my heart is turning
My heart. My heart a black flower. Not that. And is my heart an arrow
when in the morning it is crowing. My heart, my heart’s crowing,
in the morning there is a blackness to the crowing of my heart. If in the morning
it wakes you. If the sky is black and then it is not black, if the sky travels up
from black and then if my heart is too loud. My heart is awake. If my heart is awake
then my heart is too loud. If in the morning my heart is too loud and it wakes you
and your muffled eyes open and there, there is my heart in the middle of the room.
Or my heart is at the window, crowing and crowing. Then do not touch it
but watch it. So when the sky has traveled its distance
from black and then dark and then not dark and then pink, then,
when my heart has spent its restless quiver. Touch it. Touch my heart so
it burns. Turn and lean forward out of the bed, enter the room and touch my heart
like fire (this black flower, this fever, this pitch, this scrubbed clean, this arch
of morning, this riding night, this black pitch, this fever, this book
in the mouth, this bird in the city, this siphon, this is prisoning, this fever, this pitch,
this mouth on the shelf, this bed on the back, this black city, this arch of bird,
this morning in the mouth, this woman riding night, this pitch
of fire, this bird from the prison, this shelf of fever, this back is not clean,
this arch in the chapter, this book in the morning, this pitch, this fever, this city’s
on fire), be fearless, touch me and that turning sun
Instructions for wooing me (monster that I am)
with two lines taken from Roman Holiday
First generate a charge. Rub hard if you have to. Crash a little against
my fleeciest spots. When I begin to stain with electricity, turn your faucets
off. I am a pornography of small promises. I tell you this softly because really
I am a soft thing. I open my modesty umbrella. This is how you know to get out
your cutting board. If I balk pull a tooth or two. I want you to do this to me
because I want you to do this. I am the chugging gin of the universe. I balm
and bomb. In your mind I burn like thirty watts of unstrained honey.
I am not very bright with my antennae on. With diamonds
and things that are less than diamonds on. Like a lone languid
heat storm, you say. I say The ribcage is not a sensible machinery.
But I am dimmer even than the face of a leap year. Stop me if I start
to speak of terror. It is a habit unbecoming of being here. It is not good
for your sauna perspective. Is my surge protector paling? I pale
to speak of it. In the jar rimmed with pollen is a knife with your name on it.
Have I told you about the big development? You are dreaming
of me now. If I am glowing like a firefly know that I am not
a firefly. This time of night every bee dusts with a little sparkling blow. Blow me
back to the square I came from. It’s your move, I say. You move an inch
away. Step seven: I turn red as a city. Step eight: I become a little less
uniform. I sprout seven more whiskers. I hiss like a fire house
expelling its heroes. You know what to do. I can tell by your glasses.
If map then midriff. If shot glass then novocaine. That will be all
my surnames on the floor. I’m fair game, Joe. It’s always open season
ANNE MARIE ROONEY is the author of Spitshine (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012). She has won the Iowa Review Award, the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, and Poets & Writers’ Amy Award, and been featured in the Best New Poets and Best American Poetry anthologies. Born and raised in New York City, she currently lives in New Orleans, where she is a teaching artist.
“Story with red heels in its mouth” first appeared in Ninth Letter; “What my heart is turning” in Iowa Review; and “Instructions for wooing me…” in Narrative. All appear here with permission.