The Jivin' Ladybug

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Chantelle Messier



I have sent:

poetry, sarcasm, george harrison postcard, pot leaf pressed, this visibly, but also

tears too often, regret half-realized, uncashed paycheck of thoughts, prayers


(yes I do pray quietly but not in quietude

always a candle lit for doubt

numberless and interlapping oval-faced madonnas

I have collected;

they paper the inside of my skull.)


fall on your knees.

you can no longer land on your feet;

kiss the foot of any idol you can

and collect saints like a ring of posies

store cherubim like beans in the pantry


against a moment of need

for these are importunate times.


also I send (this unawares; even in sleep I clutter the signal with noise) dreams:

I am a child sleeping, he wakes me. this is an invention not a real memory,

I was never a child, and he never an adult, at the same time, still.


the photo cuts him off at the waist, his arms folded

the top half of him stands in front of a C-130

a prop plane, prone to malfunction

he says without feeling

but good for landing

in deserts,

in sand.




Nursery-Rhymes from a Nowhere Town


Rehoboth. The sun breaks on a

Plastic cow statue lawn-stolen

Wisely watching from

Between the leaves


Where, teen-hidden, it rots

Beside beerbottle leavings,

An abandoned prophylactic,

Somebody’s shoe.


                        Rattled, the ribs

                        Of the senile tractor

                        Cough in the cornward breeze

                        And wheeze diesel-breath.


Over its shoulder, the winks

Of the car-dealership

Sizzle in sun, flash

The dazzle-dazzle rows of windshield glass.  


And all day long

The ice-cream truck


Like an ambulance whining.


P.M., the empty police car

Mopes by the speed-trap,

Wistfully watches someone do niiiiinetyyy-five

Down 95.


Discarded pills spill

With a candy-pink clink,

Into the purse

Of the nightshift nurse.


But silence waylays in the hours before dawn,

When newspapers drag hush-hush down the bicycle path

And even screaming stop






FOUND: one (small) death


early spring green,

haysmell, yields the

surprise of someone’s




strewn open.




call the hospital, call the—


when i trail in with the furwreckage

tucked in my hand like an obscene note

i have carried bleeding through campus

wise eyes of my roommate say,


You already know: no. Don’t you.

And I. Know. Oh.



i’m certain there’s someone you call

about this

“yes, i’d like to report an obscenity—

death, unsolicited, speaking to me on the footpath

i feel



Animal. Hospital.

some-one-competent, latexed,

takes this barely-born stillbreathing quiver

leaving me with a bloodrumpled dishtowel

I’ll take that for you, Miss,

if you’d like.

no. i’ll

take it away

with me.






a flexible auxiliary ribcage

a compress comfortable, contained

outer bones so inner bones

can soften, yield, and give


in.    out.


like violin sobs collected

at the waist by the drawing of a bow

it all comes together

within this narrow room,




freedom—not to, but from—

the stumble of words over-breathed

collapse, excess, mess,

the promiscuous bumpy silhouette


(not in)


and woman’s graceless prolixity.

to stay this and other

threats of the world unthreading,

we draw breath in pain.




[March 21, 2009, On Hearing the Band at the Annual Dinner of the

Rhode Island Battery ‘B’ Civil War Artillery Re-enactment Group]


The music of war has nothing to do

with war,

                        the lit-fuse hiss of it,

                        the broken-backed crack of it, the


(music: “Mountain Echo Polka”

struts, upbeat, chest-puffed and cheeks blown

from jubilant polished big-band brass)


                        BOOM of it


(oompah-pah, ruddy-faced, bravely

blue uniformed sons of Poles and Swedes,

of Irish and Portuguese, in their folding-chair rows)


these musicians

(retirees and schoolteachers with moustaches gentle faces and clean hands)

will tell you

that Lincoln whistled “Dixie”

that his favorite opera was Faust,

that “Honor to Our Soldiers” was once thought

the last song he ever heard, its music accompanying

the bullet to his brain.


                        (music, too, the Old Boys brought with them

when they went to die, in their day

                        at Fair Oaks, at North Anna,

                        Cold Harbor and Mine Run

                        proud, pennant music,

irish music polka music evangelical music)


the tunes our soldiers marched to

we now know mostly

as carousel music,

the lacquered-bright horses

bobbing up and down proudly

in endless gold-and-pink circles.

we put our children on the backs of these horses

that never whinny or shy,

not hearing the discharge of canister shot,

they are unfearing of history,

they are beyond the perils of era and age.




To Do


I find myself


mounting by uphill fits,

this morning is a tollbooth

and I don’t have the change.


this week, I will buy peaches

this year, I will read Paradise Regained

this life is a jelly jar I will open

the hard way, gritting and straining

until I come up with the strength

until like a Lamarckian giraffe,

by striving, bequeath a legacy of tallness.


but just now—8:15—

light through the blinds

almost smells bitter,

stale, like a coffee can full of promises,

(from which the promises

have mostly escaped, leaving behind

just the smell of coffee).




A Forgetting


cigarette smoke.

wet ash.

I forget.


like an umbrella forgets

shaken rain.

I forget the night you drew on an eyeliner mustache,

rolled the Camels up in your sleeve,

came out in a fedora, manly swagger

and I blushed and laughed and blushed

and you didn’t wish I liked girls,

and I didn’t wish you were a boy.


(to come out:

step out and face the swing music

and court your share of sweetness like a man,

shouldering your pool stick smirking and fearlessly

raiding the closet where your father’s shirt hangs crease-white.)


like a table forgets

coffee rings.

I forget all the excuses you found for us to touch,

the long nights

long with candles and glasses of Coke,

long with The Mask of Zorro, with magazines,

long with—longing

like the ache of growing bones


(to kiss:

careless mingling kiss of soda bottle shared,

pedicures where fingers kiss shiny pink toes,

shin across shin limb-kissing sleepover sprawl,

or stride through high school halls, palm kissing palm.)


like aging skin forgets

a tattoo.

I forget you kissed my brother and I kissed yours

we exchanged what Y chromosomes

we had,

we contrived lip-meeting

across uncrossable differences of neutral sex-sameness,

of harmless hand-clasping, of little-girl love, green love,



cigarette smoke.

wet ash.




Honey When You


get home         I’m afraid

I won’t be here

anymore          just my

‘used-to’ making

patterns on the floor

my ghost         changing

channels in the dark,

pot of meatballs

in the fridge    maybe

the radio

will refuse to play

my favorite songs

for a while       maybe

for one day or

even three you’ll feel

the world crack how-

ever I left

a pot of meatballs

in the fridge.




Things That Look Like Deer


the still not-quite-summer:

it is warm for a spring

and cool for a summer night

may flies in june or maybe

it is a bale of rain bundling

against the windshield

in this fog trundling

down roads i know by trust

easy for an eye to light

on what is it a moth a leaf?

or a spring peeper—so small

trying to decide i could run

off the road while in the dusk

things look like deer

that aren’t and deer

that are don’t look at all.




Prison Messiah


he took her

Believing, for a ride, preaching

from the payphone,

Architect of grand arcs,

Conversational conversions over



telephone calls,

his sweet-stale

breath on the


cup of the receiver.


how did he sell her

the salvation he sold, celled,

as she sat curled into a

credulous question mark,

ear sealed to the cell phone,

crediting his voice,

a round tin medallion,

with everything? he told her

he was a healer,

a revealer; he was a revelation-

salesman, a used-hope dealer.



are she and he both raised

in the same stark rapture,

or does he snicker, under

the stare of the fluorescents

when he thinks about her

believing, piling pamphlets

next to the coffee maker,

praying for the pagan

souls of adamandsteve,

nailing up pages from the bible

with a glazed-linoleum stare,

devoutly wearing his cross?


The Jivin' Ladybug- A Skewered Journal of the Arts
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