A Moment of Reflection from Jackie Kennedy
I undress now as your widow,
my thoughts sometimes lingering on all the times
I undressed as your wife—
your hand gliding down the pleats of my spine
guiding down the teeth of my zipper
to expose the slick of my slip.
I wonder how many others had you this way,
how many freckled backs met your gaze.
A woman’s back is full of secrets—
a sea creature pulsing in shadow.
Men don’t have secrets. Or, at least, you never did.
Men of your calibre don’t need them.
Though perhaps as a courtesy for me, dear,
you could have labored.
I tried to leave you about a dozen times, you know.
How foolish, I thought, even then—
though I’d hardly call myself a martyr
for what you’d call my “little knickknacks.”
I’ve always had a head for furnishings.
You had such a beautiful head, dear.
And to think some silly little Communist—
the strawberry Chanel your favorite number—
splashed with blood, caked with hair and
accented with the most delicate parts of your skull.
So many pieces...I tried to keep it all in.
In that moment, I wasn’t sure who I was to you.
I thought if I could just keep you all together…
But I knew you were dead.
Dusk has become my favorite hour,
time soft like a rabbit’s ear, daylight wincing
through my fingers like so many calloused dreams,
the tan lines from my wedding ring once
defiant, now long faded.
I was what you needed when the pies dried up,
when you had your fill, popped the cherry of History
and left her doubled over, puking from the quaaludes.
Our marriage was an instrument of Time—
Daddy groomed me for my pick of sadists.
There were times I thought no atlas could reach you.
Loving you...certainly the worst way to get to you.
Didn’t think I knew about the duckies?
Such a curse for a girl to be bright…
I suppose it was too much to ask we grow old
together, to see our children grow up together.
I once thought, cradling your head like I had so many
times before, so many times in the dark night
after our lovemaking, fierce and frenzied and desperate,
that no one had you like I had you. You were too
much for this world, like our children doomed,
growing and fading in my crooked womb.
Where were you? And where was God?
Oh if we should ever meet—
I’d gladly shake his hand before I cut the damned
thing off! How many backs, Jack? How many Sirens
called your name? Before anything else, I am a woman…
How many biddies held your full attention like
I held the pieces of your precious head in
those final moments? I give myself permission to no
longer wonder anymore. I was past wondering
on that plane, your brain matter sparkling on the
bouclé wool like the ripest pearls.
Snowball Fights in Connecticut
Sometimes when I’m lonely
I dream up your childhood, meditate
on what it feels like to be you then,
walk the thresholds of your house.
Your siblings on each other’s heels.
The snowball fights in Connecticut.
The silence between your parents
that filled up the breakfast table.
It makes sense. How you get sometimes.
The first time you kissed a girl,
felt her freckled thighs, maneuvered your
rough hands over her penny nipples,
hard working hands for a boy your age.
She was a few years older than you, but by
that time you’d seen fifty dead bodies,
at least, digging graves that summer.
Listened to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were
Here” twice that much, contemplating
heaven and all the hell you’d raised.
The melted snow grieving from pelting
the faces of strangers soon to be buried.
The Chocolate Tiger
honey blue and primal brown—
the color of mercy, bowels,
and funeral home blazers
(of which I am too familiar.)
The sullen outlines aching
purple like wings dipped in a bruise,
with humble veins to map
its howling, savage heart.
Fearless against the sky, it winks
with an unflinching wild eye
like my father's—
delicate and virtuous—
weary in the face of death.
Sick collected in his body like
a secret in the open dark and
groomed him for his coronation
as my daddy, King of Decay.
Once he showed me where
cancer had mapped him
in freckled heaving notches,
tumor for grapefruit-sized tumor—
gaunt like a starving moon.
They dug and dug and dug on him
with such misshapen symmetry,
and I said nothing.
Through gleaming gritted teeth his
smile hung on me;
I saw the devil—
a snarled noose with lucrative
knots, spots before my eyes
like fireflies against the colors
of my eyelids, against the burnt
orange-blue of its fluttering, and
I could taste the ruin in my feet,
pink against the dark salt earth.
Mired with a sprinter's pulse,
I built my home in the church of the
trees. Knees buckling under
willful branches, I hardened there—
forged myself into a gilded
chrysalis before the rotting world
in wait. I surrendered to the
lonely sun and did not look back.
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