POETRY

WORDS: KATHLEEN RADIGAN '17
IMAGES: BENJAMIN ROMERO '16

Plan B

You stay on the treadmill all morning watching a Japanese talk show.  On it, a straight-banged host is waxing her guests’ legs. One rolls up his trousers and clutches the chair he’s sitting in while she presses a glimmering strip of wax to his skin.  She yanks it off.  He yelps like a squashed Chihuahua while the audience cheers.  You monitor the treadmill’s digital display.  

When your mother gets drunk, she orders new exercise machines online.  They arrive on your stoop in cardboard boxes, peddled by mild-mannered UPS men who pace the porch awaiting her signature.  She never uses them, so you do.   

Once, on a rum and coke night you let Phil lead you up thirty stairs to his room.  You pretended he was your captor and refused to speak.  He swayed like a cornstalk in the stairwell, grabbing your breasts to steady himself.  The next morning, you slipped your Visa through a gurgling machine at the Walgreens prescriptions counter and bought Plan B from a southern intern named Jason who reminded you of back-porch Coca Cola at your Nana’s house.

Jason gave you a discount and said, “Have a safe day.”  Your quiet friend picked her nails beside you.  You walked to a café where she punched through the plastic with her bread knife.  You gulped that white pebble down, pretending to be an esteemed sociologist instead of a restless girl drinking coffee in harem pants.  The two of you discussed ‘a culture of consent.’ Then she said, “Maybe you should stop doing things just to see what will happen” and smiled like Buddha.  A green strand glinted between her front teeth. You chewed your pancake. 

Your compass is broken and your propeller is curiosity.  You think of life as a series of Reub-Goldberg machines.  By flipping a lever or throwing a shoe at a wall, you set off a series of interesting reactions.  Sometimes it’s scary because you see light reflecting off Jason’s sterile Intern Badge and realize there is really no Plan B.  Those reactions add up to your life.

You can’t fall asleep this or any night until birds start chirruping.  Your Circadian rhythms are tuned to lawnmowers, feathers and engines.  As the sun belly flops into the sky like a fat man into a pool, your parents click the front door shut and go to work.  You jam your feet in sneakers and step onto the treadmill, pretending to be a vegan who eats a lot of kale and abides by an exercise regimen, or a philosopher trying to live out opposing cliches: seize the day/stay alive. 

ON SCRATCHING:

A beautiful thought does not exist. It is February and the pond’s iced over.  
We cannot expect anything of each other except

dry ingredients for a cake, a funny picture of a possum
sent in link form, a spell of streetlights.
You and I are shadow puppets, arm in arm under spindly trees.
We separate to see the world clearer. We want to scratch each other.
Robert sold the pills. We swallowed.
Miles away, his breath halted
in an empty apartment.  We didn’t hear its echo. We were steam
licking a window.

ON OUR PRIMAL INSTINCT TO LEAVE TEETH MARKS:

Once, you ignored me, hot palm on a ballerina’s neck.
The next day, a plane crashed in the ocean.
Your eyes shuddered at mine
while I unraveled the lasagna with a fork.

Gifts

Here’s blue nail polish.  Here’s broccoli cheddar soup.
Here’s the dog scratching at the porch door.
Here’s smoke rising off the street. Here’s wind that makes
the trees sound like they’re speaking.
Here’s your friend Alina.
Soon she’ll move to California for grad school
and marry a Buddhist novelist. Until then you’ll sit on her wood
floor, make wreaths out of birth control wrappers, unwrap banana nut
muffins and red wine.  She’ll laugh at your jokes
like her head’s a boiling teakettle. Here’s Matt.  
He’ll break up with you. All
your friends will say, “what a sociopath” then
months from now when you call him at 4AM mid panic attack he will talk
you down for an hour, asking, “What are you gonna listen to
to fall asleep? Fleet Foxes?”
Here’s ridged shells in tide pools.  Here’s
skin stretched on your stomach like a drum.
Here’s water bottle, French
press.  Here is a photo of you in Athens ten years on,
Naked on the jetties.  
Fire, sour gummy worms,
girl scout swimming badge.  Here are
ice caps.  Here’s your father when he was
a baby, swaddled in a red blanket.
Here’s your mother at the eighth
grade dance, proud of her perm.
Here’s jellyfish, acorn
whistle, glass, blood, bullet.  Here’s funeral
pound cake, face powder, fleshy hugs.
Here’s your grandma’s wet face rubbing
yours, retelling grandpa’s war stories
like elephants hold their dead above water.
Here’s November, mouth full of brown bread.
A dog’s belly, tail slapping the floor.
Here’s love! You craved it — now it’s turning
in its sleep, rough mumbling. Love
running at night in sea blue shorts, avoiding mirrors.
Here is water on Mars, cotton underwear.  
Here’s sea turtle and Venus. Grief.
that caramelizes your legs, leaves you on the couch at 4PM,
eyes sore and thirsty.
Water from the faucet.  Knock at the door.  
Here’s your friend Alina
waking you to whisper “I puked on your bathroom floor
but cleaned it up.  Scooch over. Tomorrow will be
the best day of our lives.”

Fantasy

On the train I  
raise my arms like Moses
and you take off my shirt
for the first time.
Six coughing kids and a lady stare.
The conductor tells me to find a seat
in the next car
because I am loud and my tits are distracting.
You carry me over the threshold like a bride.