J. Marie Wilkinson

The Spool & Unspooling                                                                                                    

I heed the way it pulls gently & drags me down to enemies, sneering & nebulous, blathering invective or coy & deformed by their own language as though each plea cripples them into someone else their slender faces yielding other names, names other faces.  How it moistens my neck, crumbles in my eyelashes & empties me into tomorrow from the guts of yesterday.  How it opens my mouth just so, softening my sheets in the smell of me & rinses my eyelids to tissue paper, how it tangles & spoons me to & away from my lovers.






Porch.  Sundown, a phantom blues with Milt Jackson on vibes & dusk wraps around the house the way a child’s blanket becomes a tent.  Red-black, pink & blue solved by darkness.  Then lateness, then midnight: cloud scrim, a fingernail moon & sleeping pill sleep heavies my limbs into anvils of saltwater.  I wake with enormous maps of some hidden city under my eyes, black coffee steaming.  Traffic puckered with hot clatter the city outside teems at my window, stubborn.  Refused by the babble that stands for it, but language insists on betrayal & a song nudges open the door of morning.




Unthinking the Body                                            


Locked in the bathroom the eldest finally takes a pink leg razor to her eyebrows to put her self back together.  Her little sister lifts an arm to inspect the stubble, black with three fingers perhaps imagining the schoolboy’s pearled offering on her stomach.  They guess & laugh at each other’s bodies in the mirror’s quiet.  Mint tea, oranges, hair twined into vanilla bars of soap & a keyhole.  I will pretend forever that I have not done what I have not done.




Ghosts of Benefit & Angell Streets


Poe staggers down Angell Street in Providence jabbing along his silver-headed cane licks whiskey sleepily from the cap.  Since dusk he’s shoveled & un-shoveled two rectangular mouths in a church yard, emptying one to fill the other, lacking soil enough to level them both off.  A casket of raspberries in one eye, in the other a casket of ash.  He doubles over & hunkers into the gutter muck & horse flop, puckers his mustache, resolved to swill out quiet from the neck of the bottle.  Heartened, he swigs to the sour last, not hearing hoof clops soften in the street & the liquor unzips his throat. 




Grief, Mud, Tarmac, Mud                                                 

                after Key West


Each wrong hotel room I return to puzzles & unpuzzles the town together & apart, spoiled in the thick bread of sunlight.  The lobby wall’s green plastic parrots & fading date palms, even the map won’t forgive its streets.  When I drink I still long for the clunky heft of the hotel phone, to find you, tucked away with a novel, gently tugging the string of your tea bag.  As my memory uncrumples with the booze, I can almost hear the slow-breath backwards changes of “Like Spinning Plates” but soft tenor & brushes as if Jimmy Cobb were working the snare against Coltrane.  Tin jets wobble over Truman’s steam-shoveled submarine islands & asphalt docks like runnels goading Cuba.

e-mail the poet at jmariewilkinson@hotmail.com
info on the writer
to go back to the home page