Evie Shockley



my father: younger, handsome, downright square,
eyes like brown buttons fastening his face
over his soul, mouth not too straight to swear,
to say, man, sonny stitt’s ass trashed the place,

hymning his saxophonist small-g god,
enlisted arms push-up strong, lips curled less
and less around cigarettes (in an odd
reversal of what the army did best:

march men to foul habits) and more around
his mouthpiece, in search of pure embouchure:
not square: hell-bent on welling a full sound
from his horn: a liquid literature

with biblical phrasing, an interlude
of stimulants unchemical to blood. 

[Initially published in Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, Vol. 7.1, Winter 2003.]


a poem about

in small-town michigan, a loose
fit in the parentless apartment,

we four. neat, het pairs, sorted
for size and matching colors.

in the master bedroom, trophies
aping gold and wood-paneling

resign themselves apologetically
on cheap shelves. the rounded

waterbed bucketing toward red
shag carpet. the short, brown two

wait for you and me to leave
before easing onto the sea of love.

you lead me by the hand to a back
room that could be anyone’s, a stack

of newspapers against one wall,
the bed unremarkable, except

that we are going to share it.
darkness, then growing light

as my pupils gorge on the black
edges of the room. your face,

so pretty, even up close, skin
a blank braille that reads "baby."

i pulse like a star, enlarged
with the idea that i, the "girl,"

might be in command, really
be an "older woman." bright

with the thrill of detachment,
of being coolly unindulgent

to you — you! with your living
penis, which i never see, but press

my palms around until it leaves
a long, white kiss on my good

nightgown. i wonder if your
sweet groans have crawled

beneath the door and down
the hall. i spend one wide-eyed

moment listening for sounds
to wash wash wash from the next

room. hearing a ripe quiet,
i kiss you goodnight, content

with having waded in what’s
drowning him and her. we were

all young, or younger, then,
and unskilled at breathing under-

water: but the difference between
our splashing and their immersion

is like the difference between me,
later, writing a poem about you

and writing one for you. this, my
double-date dear, is the former.

[Initially published in the chapbook, The Gorgon Goddess (Carolina Wren Press, 2001).]


the anklet

my sister’s visit
   to india begins
      it. i asked for a sari,
   but received
what would fit
   in her pack.
      silver. link
   after link, bone
interlocked with
   O. a blossom
      of bells at the clasp.
   months elapsed
before i dared
   to wear it. finally,
      the snaky spine
   shining against
my skin. a tinkling
   paces me when i
      walk, brings
   would-be lovers
to my feet.
   the encircling gift
      is a freedom:
   the one leg chained
only to itself.