Catherine Pikula

Five Poems

Ode to Britney Spears

I’m in awe of how you entered attached to a wire amidst blue
lighting. The smaller white rays projected erect as our hands,
too far to gauge just how large the white wings you wore were,
how heavy the feathers weighed when attached to a skeleton
I imagine was made with more metal than air as if you were called
to carry two people. Such is the life of a woman! and in a ruched

dress that omitted your feet. The world loves to render us
immobile under the pretense of veneration. It’s impractical,
the notion that anyone could exist in an incessant state of shimmering.
We’d accomplish nothing but looking — stiff as your backup dancers
costumed grey and hooded. They stood in a circle, in the middle
of the stage. Dear oracle, who exists in an incessant state

of entertainment, I don’t care that you weren’t actually singing.
It’s enough that you have sung at some point, that you are
a kind of perennial. The Brazilian man next to me sang for you
every word. Notice me. We noticed an anthem of loneliness.
You landed behind a screen, escaped those wings, that dress.
In the center of the pit, your head fell forward. You flipped your hair back.

Ghosts

Someone holy in the parlor.

A lounge chair with an armrest

for support instead of comfort.

Palm to her face. In love,

it’s unrealistic to expect

the possession of someone

wholly. It’s dreadful. We never

think of that at the time.

The author’s hand in the scene.

Another metaphor for faith

foreshadowed in the decision

to insure or not insure in case

it will burn. It isn’t a nice house

but a university of suffering. We are

in someone else’s hands. Our own

polish glass behind the partition.

She is patiently stroking the skin

of a peach. I don’t believe in

special protection. Gripping the arm-

rest. She is sorry for pointing. I’m not

speaking as yours.

Someone Has to Be the Pasture

Where else would the cows give birth
if not on top her grass where she loves

those wet calf sacs pushing forth
with steam rising from their limp bodies.

I’m so lucky to have had a mother
like that to lie on with my thumb

in my mouth and asleep. I clung
to her neck like a rock strung

on a leather cord. My legs were long
enough to reach her knees. If not in her lap,

where else would I have sat and thought
of existence. No one else will ever hold me

as thoroughly as when I dig a hole through
and climb down to lie back inside her.

Her Condition

Sometimes my mother flies
   off the handle like a drunk
      or a light switch we can’t find.
In the kitchen she will scream
   as if she’s never used a knife
      to cut a green pepper,
never bandaged a cut before.
   We’re out of tissues
      and it’s my fault. She broke
several wine glasses closing
   the door to the dishwasher.
      Her temperature rises
without the warning kettle
   screech for no reason
      other than cheese melting.
It’s burning at the bottom
   of the toaster-oven.
      My father must think what
kind of animal did I marry?
   She says, “If my stomach ever reaches
      out farther than my boobs
take me to the backyard and shoot.”

Help Us Understand The Emptiness of Your Womb

As parents we feel somewhat responsible
but are not in the least able to explain why.

The angel in the tapestry is missing a wing.

The police found no evidence of a rape&emdash;
meaning there was no frat party.

The magazine will retract. They will get sued

and Sue will get what no one deserves
again, or for the first time. It depends on the lie.

How much easier it must be to walk when believing

in exceptions, no need to tighten the spikes
on your shoes. What good the body is unwitnessed.

Instead of a head, we see strips of linen.