You want her to leave at 3 a.m.,
tiptoe outside with her shoes in her hands.
You want her to push her Mazda Protege
down the street and jump in while it is still moving,
fire the engine, swing onto the I-10 to Las Vegas. 
Once there, you want her to dance
tits and feathers on The Strip, her neck threatening to break
from the weight of her headdress. 
You want her to room with three other dancers,
party every night, screw holiday gamblers
from Bakersfield and Boston and Chino. 
You want her to cry after her first abortion,
cramp, change pads, and switch the channel
from QVC to Family Ties. You want her to hiccough
through a slug of medicinal brandy and, later,
feel well enough to hit the craps table
for an hour before turning in. 
You want her to have a sordid little life,
slipping from man to man like a virus.
The alternative is unthinkable:
A 5'1" skeleton, curled slightly, barely fleshed, 
found by paintballers in San Timoteo Canyon.
You want her to hit you and run screaming out the door.


It's when they look back from where they are going
as if we could follow, as if it were nothing special
but all the same a miracle like ice cream
from a tub of salt and eggs and milk
or the sound of the deaf boy calling "Emma! Emma! Emma!"
and she leaping toward him, a sweetness of dog.

They look back, they don't falter, they keep going,
and the deaf boy elevates the moment
into a hallelujah chorus: audible, atonal, beautiful.


The lady psychiatrist would stop him in his tracks,
calm him down, deny the compulsion to move,
to touch everything, say whatever pours through him
in a unique liquid of mixed dreams and metaphors.
He must not speak to bees and feral cats, rub noses
with stray dogs or trail out of the house each evening
with a flashlight and a magnifying glass to observe
web-spinning friends lodged in the hibiscus trees.
At night, he bumps up to the surface of sleep
and speaks in tongues, yells through war maneuvers
and baseball games in French and Basque
before sinking back to his pillow, an ordinary boy,
undisturbed by his own nocturnal turbulence.
Because he always carries three things in his hand,
the psychiatrist says "compulsive." Because he saves
every newspaper, rubs each pulped page twice
before refolding, the psychiatrist says "obsessive."
Because in school he needs to moonwalk to the
pencil sharpener only to have forgotten the pencil,
which requires him to sidestep back to his desk,
spin, bend, retrieve the pencil and begin the dance again;
because he cannot sit still but lights from desk to desk
as if searching for something, as if constantly unsettled;
because he slams doors, throws chairs, and speaks out of turn,
the psychiatrist murmurs "deficit," "disorder," "Ritalin." 
Later, he writes "Arsenal" 100 times on lined paper
before curling next to me in sudden exhaustion,
arms folded like wings, his bright hair falling away
from his forehead. I will hold him always this loosely,
guard him with a Labrador's steady devotion. Outside,
the new moon wavers through the hibiscus, becomes small,
becomes shaped like a luminous pill that may cause
drowsiness or dizziness. Methylphenidate. Ritalin.


Three of us have had your promises,
your rings,
your thick voice in our ears
as you bucked and came.

We dolly brides-
your precious pride of hens,
your dearlies and beloveds
multipy like sins.

Warmest welcome
to our bitter little coven:
unfurl your painted hair
inside our wifely oven.

Press your blue bruised cheek
on the metal roasting rack.
Turn the knob.
Find the gas

but not the fire.
Curse his cheating heart
(the fucking liar)
and then, like his sworn love,


     Jennifer Olds 2007