Back to Issue Forty-Six





The rainbow is mutilated. Made sleeker, simpler,
like these modern condos graying the gayborhood
from which hypoallergenic dogs scream the sun up
like roosters with throats cut. Only seven colors,
scale to hang an anthem on, a hymn.
Newton cracked the light to its flaw inside,
nacreous like a conch full of song, but wanted music
virginal as he was. Even the Pride rainbow
cut loose its original unruly bands.
Turquoise for art and magic, pink for sex.
So identity wipes from its eyebags the crumbs
of tacky spangle, pancakes on a natural look.
In the cemetery, a woman in jammie pants
waves a censer over a headstone.
Through its tangy haze I leak like a snail,
congenitally topped. Exquisite corpse
of morning-after: her wrists, her kissed throat,
swagger for days, for nights. What to write her?
All thumbs, bad sexts, my lines tangle
in Mercury’s bag of tricks this retrograde season.
I must buy some shaded inks—lavenders, pinks,
violets—to shade my meaning. I see I gave you
many wrong meanings, using only black ink.

The light perverts to its spectrum.
Sick-sweet kitsch Presidential Suite
battered by seafoam green, favorite shade
of the invert’s ink, his buttonhole carnation,
pastel hotel where two women
dab from pink perfume vials in their bathrobes,
excuse to smell each other. Dirty pink
of puce, a word meaning fleas, for my nipples;
turquoise, Pantone color-of-the-year the year
a girl first touched them. That one journaled in code
(“so my biographers won’t reduce my art to my life”),
but I’m aging out of coyness. Reduce me
to my life. I’ll write to you in pinks. Not
millennial pink—rose, the roses of the millennium,
which are meaty, overblown, and in turquoise
of verdigris’ acid ink eating into pages,
verdigris crusting sphinxes and angels
where coyotes dig up from snow
Day-Glo flowers left in offering—Love,
devour me like the green word its paper.

Ashley Keyser lives in Chicago, where she is currently working on a collection about colors and queer desire. Her poetry has appeared in Best New Poets, Pleiades, Quarterly West, Copper Nickel, and elsewhere.

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