somebody’s pale ghost slip of a girl,
hoping she’s riding the elevator by herself.
you cannot find her in an Alpine forest,
in a New Jersey winter,
even if you’re looking right at her sitting in the snow—
feigning color and appetite like
the look of a diseased tree.
orange in the rafters,
Jesse James in the woodwork:
illness is illness,
psychosis is illness,
ain’t it the same?
you never know the whole story.
you can know the myth
or the man.
not always the woman.
she’s retained private council:
they’re singing about me
like churchbells through empty
I am feeling remarkably American—
there is no verbal translation for that.
it’s something about the way
and the intermediate height of my cheekbones.
it’s something in syntax of my brainwaves—
and I’m loud because I’m shy
and labeled ice queen
because I have secrets wrapped in
cardigans and flippant flirtations.
I’m well made until I cry.
do you know who I am yet—
statue-frozen in a garden,
befallen of avalanche,
waiting for the heist?
would I be recognized uncovered?
I need a cloak for cover.
I need a fairytale for confidence.
I too get gobbled by wolves-in-pink-nightgowns
while everybody thinks I’m just
robbing trains in the woods
and laughing about it.
what you see isn’t all that
you know what else they’re hollering about me
like a shotgun-search-party
into the frigid-no-leaf-air?:
artists and beautiful
women are just like that.
* * * * *
This poem is part of a series of works inspired by the Smithsonian Institution’s photo archive, made publicly available on Flickr. If you would like to, choose an image from their collection and create something – be it prose, poetry, audio, or visual art – inspired by it, and send it to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com.