by Susan Goslee
—I fear my venture will be wild and empty
—Inferno II, 35
A man and a woman snare some gods. Then loose
them in scrap and chicken wire quarters.
Years later the couple won’t tell police
how many prowl inside, whether they hoard
the proffered roadkill or drag it swiftly
to a litter’s chambers. Three once cornered
Dante, bullied him back to his start. If
now they’re mangy, faint?—So was his patient
guide. I hire you Kings and Inmates of Fly-
By-Night Empire. They make a pallet
from feces and the unsigned contract. I weave
chicken feathers in my hair, free ancient
mobile homes. They sleep. Their stripes sharp as shivs.
Responding officer: four months and a morning after
As far as your average delinquency,
just the Portneuf stuffing its pockets
with hot springs then, calm as you please,
strolling past greeting cards, lighter fluid, and out
the valley’s front door. But on prom, freshmen,
all juvi. bound, shredded the trailer’s interior
and sliced up the owners pretty bad. Grown
cats hooked their claws high in the sad excuse for a cage
and pulled themselves up till where the fence
wilted like a cheap-ass daisy, trapping me in some kind
of hall. One female’s whiskers and breath
kept scraping my face. I started getting dizzy. Cat’s
tattoo said, “Misbehave!” But I hung on like death.
She was waling on it. We swayed like a God-dang
slow dance. Could’ve dropped the F-bomb
in her ear. She tongued the buttons on my uniform.
My vest got tore up bouncing from partner to partner.
The tranq dart pinned a blood-ooze corsage
so she was already trashed when we posed for pictures.
We forgot curfew, buried with her classmates in crap
and muck. My job training—inadequate for the nature
of the incident. I scrambled to safety. The judge, cousin
of the one who sighs and lets the river off, announced
a gag order. Like a cough held in,
the memories shake me. They beat time on
my head: the cats so close, the bared fangs
—swirling till I feel sick. I can’t call it in.
Keep having to puke in my vehicle. I cling
to the wheel. To show off, some girl will always
ask an ex-con. She’ll say she’d had a good time
and she might well have, but she won’t sleep.
None of us should’ve been there: Trapped
like little kids in a bully’s fantasy.
None of us. There’s no getting away with anything.
Even the river’s tired of making its escape.
Judge, he should loose our scratchy tongues.
In some other district, we’d all go to the water’s edge;
wash off the dirty cuts, the hairspray, the cheap cologne,
the infected teeth, the clumped mascara; and walk away
adults, clean, allowed to make decisions about our own
direction. Fraternize with who we please.
The prescription pills don’t do shit. After eleven
each night, I’m hauled behind the wood shed, waltzing.