small textlarge text

Allie Marini Batts

Before Fire

the wolf-god in the sky had control of fire.
those who control fire control life. it's that powerful a thing.

woman seduced him and hid it in her vagina,
the hidden pocket like a kangaroo pouch, and this gained us a domain.
we call it sex and it serves us well.

Queen Mombi has Ozma's head, and forty others
but only one body to wear them with.
faces are simply frills,
and like a woman she wears them well.

she tries on rings like ruby keys, fitted
like slave bracelets to the wrist.

one will unlock her singular true face
but until then it's these replicas, these
lumps of pyrite, these zircons.

aren't we all Janus-faced, really,
put on my seductress-face and steal fire
or put on my wife-face and suffer.

put on my mother face and abort daughters.
who'd want them or their forty faces.

you said, Be patient, and promised.
I stand with the carnage
of cracked vows and ex-husbands and dead daughters—
deep to my knees and I'm sinking in it.

I'm wading in it.
I'm bogged down
and swamped in it.

there are so many crocodile tears
that little Alice can just float away and out the keyhole.

it's studded with rubies and bound to the wrist.
it unlocks nothing.

I swallow your wedding rings
like I could use the sexual holes to swallow fire
and they're metal, they're Gemini, and shatter
like so many fragments of a mirror.

strike two sticks and you've made fire.
tuck it in your marsupial labia and you can call it power,
you can call it supremacy,
you can call it the feminine divine right.

just don't you dare call it lucky
because you can carry thirty-nine faces in that same pouch with fire,
and it burns away the features.

they aren't as fair then, not as sweet,
and the less faces, the less convincing,

and don't you know if you lose the key to your pouch
you're just stuck with the one face you've got,

and you can call that toothless, lovey,
you can call that powerless, darling,
you can call that


if, in April,
the seeds planted in your scapulas
fail to bloom into wings

at least learn to love falling—
make no mistake
there will never be any shortage of cracks
where unmissed by no one—

you will tumble into the abyss
yawning beneath places your feet
mistook for steady ground.

your bones
will plant themselves like seeds:

at last, fearless in flight
on carrion bird wings

One Downward Blow

Madame Guillotine was born of brutality—
where the blunt end of an axe falls short
in murdering things that did not already know they were dead.

With one downward blow, she divorces us head from body.
In the courtyard, a clutch of tricoteuses
work their needles over wool row by row, because this is entertainment.

And so like the axe replaced by the National Razor,
my weak wrist fails at brute force,
wavering for one miscalculated moment:

falls inexact, short of the mark—
hits the side, not the center.
This symbolic execution is flawed.

Where metal meets motion
is the hooded ten of swords,
hacking ineptly at the necks of nobles.

With one downward blow from an axe,
stolen from my ex-husband's toolchest, I married
my disappointment in the empty promises of a gold ring.

Outside the courthouse, a cadre of drivers
rubberneck from their windows
row by row through the parking garage
because this is entertainment.

Like the axe Madame Guillotine replaced,
it takes more than one swing to sever the head.

I held the broken ring up to show the peasants
how to birth beauty from violent places.

Core Collapse SN 2011A

Poem rendered as bitmap

A Church, a Courtroom & then Good-Bye

a cento, for Patsy Cline's "Sentimentally Yours"

The Triangle Diner is always open.
Walking after midnight, the neon flicker
dim yellow, a scatter of glass on the curb,
sidewalk pavement & a lonely street.

I fall to pieces like a bottle
cast out the window of a well-loved Ford,
whose taillights have already disappeared
into the rolling black highway
that wends away from this one-stoplight town.

Sitting shotgun, she's got you.
Four stars glint in the sky. I make wishes
on broken glass instead.
I never wanted to be rich, I just wanted to live good.
But you've got leaving on your mind, imagine that.
You're not searching for me in the starlight—
you were always looking for a way out,
riding miles along the highway.

Coffee smells sweeter than magnolias & the griddle
promises it'll always be hot.
Pour cream, white as a wedding dress,
across the surface of a mug of coffee,
bitter & black as the night
you & your cheating heart drove away.

The third finger of my left hand feels hollow
& light when I dig down
into my pocket, looking
for a quarter, shiny & silver
as the flat top of the grill
where the cook is flipping hashbrowns & whistling.
I drop coins into the jukebox & punch in the numbers.
Sentimentally Yours—

I sing like I hurt inside
except instead of Miss Patsy onstage at the Opry
I'm singing into a bottomless mug
of coffee, at a diner that never closes.

So Close

Husbands, like blood simple dogs, sometimes rise up,
teeth bared, foaming at the maw:
they cannot know what it is to be a parakeet,
caged, wings clipped, performing an eggshell ballet
through kitchen and bedroom, bouncing off the ceiling
lighting on stacks of unwashed dishes and unmade bedsheets,
wings fluttering like sheaves of unpaid bills,
thwack of a small body against closed windows—the vast blue sky
outside, so close—she lands— free—on the grass,

one pause, all it takes, eaten alive

hollow bones splinter, light as clouds she will never reach
small wanting eyes looking up at blue sky above

so close

➥ Bio