Four Poems by Erin Knowles Chapman

When That Guy Said That Thing That Made Me Want to Fly Out of My Skin

It wasn’t until I walked away

and heard what he said to

the pretty, European woman

when my back was turned

that I set floating a simple wish

on a ripped sheet of loose leaf,

rolled into an empty Faygo bottle,

bobbing along the river that’s always flowing through my consciousness:

I want to lift my fingers

to the back of my neck

and find a garment tag hanging there

like the clasp of a necklace or a small, metal zipper

on a suit you’d wear to a Ziggy Stardust show.

To tug at the small, metal zipper,

tug downwards,

and undress myself

of my flesh

and my station.

I could have asked

the pretty, European woman

to help me with the zipper,

squirm the wiggle that

prompts a yank, tricky zipper,

hard down the middle of my back

or just struggle through myself …

until the trash he took me for

lay in a discarded heap on the library floor.

****

Recipe

I shudder at the thought of men….

I’m due to fall in love again.

— Dorothy Parker

Is it true my loves have been more like hostages than men?

Here, this recipe calls for a quarter cup of pain:

How many eggs have cracked

Against the metal lips of mirrored

Bowls, splash of

Liquid: milk, oil, water,

Harder

Pinches, the sequestered

Powder, gloves to sheath the tender

Palm, instruments of mixture

Deafen, and flour

Dusts the spanking spoon —

I pace like a caged feline.

As yoke into batter comprises a sweet

So too my heart rises up in heat.

& Here’s the smart-ass, clogging bath drains with petals

& She-he’s interrupting wifely husbands

& The Virginian lunging at me to think fast

& The mime practicing her silent scream

& Here’s a love who sent me twirling, among the moon-bright tombstones,

The corners of our mouths yanked upwards … Loves,

did you feel bound when my sight found you fair?

Snow, the size of thumbprints, diagonally descends.

Do the Fates constrict our naked hands?

This recipe says to funnel

Love through us — the human monster!

Damaged! are we? Come now, my hostage!

The sloppy slices of my heart have yet to serve,

****

If I Ordered the Chili Instead of the Cheeseburger

In a parallel plot,

my doppelganger throws back

demon rum

like a sister with a rotten tooth.

I am the exact opposite of her.

She slides her naked spine down a wet wall declaring, “Death or drugs!”

If I snuck in one sip, eventually she and I’d end back up

our tag team of scramble-eye liars, kicking our tantrum hunger.

Good thing I ordered the cheeseburger instead of the chili.

They say that the Man Upstairs knows our every move

before we make it, but my guess is

it’s the little decisions

that navigate our actions

like talking with waitress for a few minutes

while she rang up my bill

about how tasty the pickles on the cheeseburger were.

Sweet and crisp, like her smile

stalling for a second

before I brave again

my life, out there, on the road-kill roads,

where it must be more than luck

that gets us home.

****

Andy Warhol logo

yes

Andy Warhol rides shotgun.

Do everything is his advice to me

dragged out in his monotone hush.

A spinning digital circle continues to spin.

My mind becomes a net,

cast wide.

All of a sudden

Andy Warhol and I experience a visual assault:

“I am a Person”

words on a van

followed by enlarged images plastered on the doors of the van

of fetus pieces:

fetus head, fetus arms, fetus legs

in various stages of abortion.

Iowa plates.

Andy eggs me on

to home in on the van

with the enlarged images

of fetuses in various stages of abortion

and the large words painted on a piece of flattened cardboard

secured to the van’s back windows, “I am a Person.”

We know the driver’s a dude before we know the driver’s a dude.

Andy seems excited, but it’s hard to tell.

He breathes more than says, wow

Mid-autumn sun crystallizes this overpass until our landscape can almost be seen.

He says, distance yourself as if through a lens

and then

really, really low,

he says,

yes.

****

Erin Knowles Chapman has been writing poems for over 20 years. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University as well as a MLS from Wayne State University. She works as a Reference Librarian and leads “Soul-Centered Journaling” workshops at Boston Tea Room in Ferndale. She’s participated in and organized spoken word performances in the various places she’s lived throughout the years, like Charlottesville, VA and St. Louis, MO. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, under @air_ink. She currently lives in Wyandotte with her husband, toddler, pit bull and two elderly cats.

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