BY ASHLEY KEYSER
powerful, with a little bit of tender/ an emotional, sexual bender
—Janelle Monáe, “Make Me Feel”
The hour between the dog and wolf
is purple as the words for it. Dusk and gloam,
crepuscule, eventide. Day straddles the night
like dogs in alleys, or wolves. All cats are gray
when genus and gender bleed to ombre.
The light: a slurpee nozzle’s impossible fruit
(raspberries, blue raspberries), or bees
fed on Maraschino cherries and antifreeze.
What’s the color of my raging thirst?
Two girls lovestruck in The Cities of the Plain
exchanged “a sort of phosphorescent train.”
Boys pollinated each other as the translator
typed all his flowery adjectives one-handed.
A phase like a super blue blood moon passes
wearing a chandelier chainmail veil and glasses,
red/blue 3D lenses. A phrase cracks its wit,
which tastes sweet, but Sugarland folded,
the club I danced in once with Stephanie.
A glitter-littered staircase, bulges in leather,
and a straight couple on an ill-conceived date.
The Wells Fargbro made a crack at a queen’s
tilted wig. The girl, also tilting, probably also
a shade lavender (meaningful eye contact!)
snickered, so out our romance guttered.
In a fit-and-flare, I looked like an umbrella,
weathering the wreck of a private Gomorrah,
but looking back, I’d gladly crumble to salt
on the rim of Stephanie’s marg. Schiaparelli-
pink lipstick on it. The words we exchanged
in her room afterward are too blue to print.
The sky was off-color, too, crushed
like velour over the first rounds (did we really
stay awake so long?) of the garbage trucks.
Against the Grain
BY ASHLEY KEYSER
Cleopatra uncorked shocks my pulse-points in jasmine
out of the vial, gold scrollwork on pink glass, you sent me
along with LUST!, that perfume as lurid an orange
as the groin chakra in the neon sign in the psychic’s window.
Remember, we wrestled the tulle gown into your truck
like we both made love to a cloud disguised as a goddess
and bred a tribe of centaurs? Their muscles would strain
under our splayed thighs, riding away, fuck all your relatives,
fuck your groom, goodbye! I wanted this to be a wedding song.
It was easier to stuff me into that low-cut number than English
into sapphics, though I woke up in bed with a bridesmaid
’s vomit in my hair. She tried to drown the best man
when he wouldn’t let her jack him off in the hot tub.
Most of the weekend, you stomped in workboots
after everyone’s messes, like you were their wife, too.
The girls threw empties outside; morning brought bears.
The last mess to clean will be us. At an estate sale once,
we browsed the dead woman’s B and C VHSes, Furbies
fixing their hyperthyroidic eyes (though in original boxes)
on retirement. Half a bottle of shampoo for a dime.
From acrylic relics of hausfrau muumuus, we dug out
a firebird Dynasty confection, sequined baby-blue yards
frothing in our arms. She’d pinned a notecard to the sleeve,
a list of compliments she got when she wore it.
Here’s another: I think of you like the aesthete plying
his alchemy of smell, rosewater, spikenard, allheal,
though he set a tortoise with cymophane and rubies
till it couldn’t walk and died. You slammed the brakes
to rescue one. Carried it, a tureen circling flippers,
to the roadside’s tangle of violets, reverent.
You were so jaunty! Green dress and purple hat,
or purple dress and green hat. Either way, rainbowed
like the most expensive banquet in the world,
pearl earring down the throat of Cleopatra.