Stride Magazine -



The light off, the foundation still hot:
there's something wrong. Burned off the bottom.
I'm working at eighty percent, sir, and for what. 

And now Olaf, he says to me, "You're a walking mouth-pit
this morning, when I skulk in my jar
at least the lid stays open." 

After that I had nothing to say.
Just tilting my head madly, as if to be 
eyeing the samples, gravel . . . what's tell-tale 

I can no longer gauge, just know
I promised to give it to her, the number, and can't.
Don't tell Olaf, but I'm x bucks in the hole 

and rising – that's the gist of it.
Eyeing what crust comes up, but not the other way.
Tomorrow they wheel out the dolly with no one in it.      


Such a vice, to keep on squinting up the crack of heaven.
Precisely such  a tract shakes the authentic parlor chefs.
I spent two whole days spending up, spitting up, in a red hollow
"whose audacity is matched only by its desperation", 

and what have you now? What new bruise for me to know?
I slunk out of the crawl space at half-past five.
Let it ring for two, then hang up. Not to get  caught
by the machine. Impossible in this day and age. 

To the contrary, you are, entirely, down on film now:
twenty-nine, thirty – thirty – thirty, then it blessedly
goes blank (technology for you)  before the "moderator." Someday
He'll find you on the street, call you Cindy by mistake. 

Or will He just send one of His assistants?
Or, standing in your old kitchen, eyes clenched, hands clenched,
will you even catch the reference?    


Spilled it on the kitchen counter: pitchers of Keratone
never touched by  bracht und memory or his sidelong smile
from when we all went out to the  park with a thermos full of Sangria,
deep in the mare of das leer, all flecked with diatoms. 

Even pushing the volume down to zero, I can still
sense the grooves all scritching the spin & the whisper of lyrics
makes me cry every time. Mortar and pistil of foxglove to snatch
the breath 'way, it's what was  prescribed me. I remember a night 

from which poured an awful, old, intense smell
like Europe or yearning or  mutilation. Parrot oil leaked from the liquid
steps of the hospice  foundation until, slathed in cornets,
the maroon-darkenened, roan-dappled  marble seemed almighty 

sure it was itself to crumble. I hesitated. It was the last thing,
in  this pearl of an adventure story, that I had hoped for.
Always secretly in  the end, the building and its fairies
were spirited away, in the nick of time, by his watermelon coolers. 

And now, an idiot savant, alone and unarmed, I had to scale
the museum walls. I wished for my bindle. I wished for my cell phone.
It was a cold  bright trumpet-blast of a day, when even flies skidded
on the ice, shivered, and prayed to die. I tore at my furs. 

I dug for a paring-knife and stabbed downward at the sheets with my
eyes  closed. Don't tell me about luck. Novena pastures Hera herself
wouldn't be  caught dead spying in. Their masks bobbed before me
as I ascended. Alternately tender and taunting in turn. It seemed 

if I stretched out an arm to touch them, I would fall. Clad in the 
thieving-costume, a dress spotted with bacon-grease and feathers and
a cardboard toilet-paper roll that was somehow supposed to represent
a tall, narrow halo, I knew I was fooling no one. 

I had never been trying to break in. There had been a drowsy doctor;
a  room slathered in hospital green; a bed I was strapped to. I screamed
for a  scalpel and cut star-shapes in the sheets but could not quite
rend the leather straps and the doctor, nodding with his eyes closed 

in a complacent half-smile, left the room. In body or in élan vital?
Like a statue of a dog whose head is not part of its body,
whose head floats on a ball bearing so, that, as the car rolls over
the lumpy corpses of pigeons, the statue nods sanguinely. 

It was my doctor, my last archival relative, my best friend.
It was the papery treasure I had to salvage
from the hall of the angels, where only my own five-inch stilettos
could teeter unheard. For centuries the statue had  been soaked in curare 

and to touch it, without these coated leather gloves, was delicate as lace: 
I placed it on my tongue, and the walls of the museum fell away.
What had it been: Olympus? A prison? Finally now, a resplendent coffin.
For I am  Lara Croft and my quests will always have a happy ending.

                        © Nina Kang 2002