Bio Note: My latest books are Traction (Ashland, 2011) and World Enough, and Time (Kelsay, 2017). My chapbook The Gambler’s Daughter is forthcoming from The Orchard Street Press.
Author's Note: Just saw the play Come from Away, which turned my thoughts to 9/11. This poem was a response to a something (true or not) I heard about one of the terrorists.
Browser, Adult Entertainment Store
A bell alerts the owner that he's entered, eyes sweeping the shelves. Easy to jump to conclusions about why he's there, both tempted and repelled by forbidden pleasures and pleasures he knows so well. The women's bodies splayed across slick pages remind him of the flayed carcasses of traitors, of butcher stalls where racks of meat, displayed for sale, attract a chorus of flies. A woman, skin like cinnamon, hair black as his wife's, a sheen that could hold the print of his hand. When his wife's face slips over the model's like a veil, he wants to veil her with a burka, lowers his gaze when the flaunted body begins to wear the face of the woman his daughter would become without a father to protect her. God is great, the words he holds under his tongue, sustain him as he enters the action on a screen, fits his wife's thighs to the woman who grips and moans. How can they turn such intimate moments into scenes that kill the soul as they inflame the senses? Sometimes he cannot abide her silence when he works his way into her body, or strikes her when she has obeyed too slowly, though her dance like falling water washes over him now, when he must not wish for dancing or love songs seductive as poppies. His gaze falls on a high-heeled sandal, straps like bindings, the punishing arch that curves the woman's foot for his desire. He wants to slip his fingers between the leather sole and her skin, touch the scarlet nails with his tongue. If only he could litter the streets with these demon shoes, see women running barefoot, their soles flashing.
Originally published in Traction (Ashland, 2011)
Author's Note: I was struck by this comment from Gates. I couldn’t get over the idea that putting a face on meant putting on a mask, a disguise.
Above all, there must be an Afghan face on this war. Sec. of Defense Robert Gates The interpreter's words are steel. The villager's face is wood, his eyes obsidian. This is the face he has practiced for years, for any questioner. This is the face forgetting how to laugh. The interpreter takes a break, washes his face and stares in the mirror. What face of the war stares back? The policeman wishes he wore a helmet with only slits for eyes. His face is one everyone remembers, will remember long after the foreigners have left. The women's faces are masked except for the eyes, the eyebrows, which still can betray a smile. And so they lower their gaze when addressed. Might there be a way to put their faces, veiled as they are, on this war? The Marines try to fade into the background, let the natives do the talking. Later, they'll critique the Afghan officer who let the car pass through this checkpoint. But for now their faces are masks.
Originally published in World Enough, and Time (Kelsay, 2017)
©2022 Mary Makofske
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to say what it is about the poem you like. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL