Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Christine Allen-Yazzie

Interrogation and Other Acts
   of Love and Patriotism

Upon questioning,
man offers nothing.

Torture, that language
of love, sends fine rivulets
of blood-sweat to steal
through night and heat from dog bite
to concrete floor; from prison
wall to soldier’s boot; erotica

gone awry—flesh, bone,
a pyramid of suffering
and shame, naked against
a flood of U.S. patriotism.
This torrent of bare bodies bend
and sway under a sluice of young

men and women drunk
with conquest, heavy with fear,
bold with entitlement.
Behind that black hood swells all
that is lost: child, parent, waiter,
writer, mechanic, avenger—

above all, humanity, hope.
Still, apathy calms all storms
in the land of the free—
so little we care for love,
so greatly we thirst for blood,
for battle, for victory, for pain.

As politicos pass
and the sky resumes its tranquil
gaze, only the slightest
change in landscape will remain:
trees will bow a little lower
streams will flow a little slower
a sigh will evoke a sigh

will evoke a sigh
will evoke a sigh


A Girl on a Road Somewhere in Idaho

Unzip the self. Curl the fingers, scoop out the mess.
Wipe it on the table, on jeans. That's how it went
four or more nights a week, her emotions a threadbare
quilt she carried everywhere—to classes, head weighted
to the desk. To work: Did I forget your cream?
So sorry. More butter pats? To the beer garden,
where she dripped like sap into strangers’ ears,
her eyes stained and flat like run-over quarters.

I left her in a frosted field. The night I ditched her,
she had traded her long johns and lucky sweater
for a short, filmy dress spilling over with bright
red and yellow flowers, but I could see through her.
I drove until my eyes grew heavy. Anxious for a sign,
I barreled down an icy gravel road until an owl
burst in front of my car, clapping enormous
feathered cymbals against my windshield.

I pulled over despite the drifting snow. I didn't cry.
I didn't say anything. She knew I would leave her
eventually. She stepped out, shut the door.
I backed up. She looked at me, shielded her eyes
from the headlights. I turned around, left for town.
From my rear-view mirror I could see her black X
of a mouth, her pale, partly veiled legs.

She is still there. With her live a hundred dead men,
a thousand destinations. They crawl up her legs
like runs in nylons. They search out the private folds
of her breasts, her ears, her navel, her numerous lips.
They sail on her long hair in the cold March wind.

I drove back to check on her now and then.
I'd find her deer-eyed, frost-bitten, wandering
on the dark rough road. We'd stare at each other.
I'd hold my breath, lock the car doors.

I couldn't take it anymore, the coming and going,
the days waiting, the heady cologne. The beer, the smiles,
the Santana. Waking up disoriented, locked between desire
and regret—the splitting between this self
and that, machetes worn dull, blood run thin—

I keep her secrets and mine, for the most part.
I'm sure she understands. She must understand.

Last night I saw her in a dream. She is beautiful.
More so now than when we parted. Her blue knees
tremble, her teeth chatter. Her icy hair
has frozen into flags. That scarf of a dress
sometimes snaps up and back with the wind.

I miss the way she talked nonsense. I miss the way
her eyebrows drew together, worms in love.
I carried a picture of her for years. My husband
became jealous, so I tore up the picture.

She is so far away. She wants me to come for her,
but I can't go back. I am intact. Alive, if numb.
Out of school and forgetting where I'm going,
I carry fear and violence in my purse, in the zipper
compartment, in a red pen. I dot i's and cross t's.
I can't wait to sleep every night. I am terrified
to go to sleep every night, to face the life I have taken,
the girl I left behind. I just want to slip away, split
all new, throw myself into a vase and sprawl out
everywhere, spill my scent all over the room.

But I can't go back. I abandoned her for good.
The girl was a drunk. She was reckless—
out of control—and ready to let me go.

©2004 by Christine Allen-Yazzie

Christine Allen-Yazzie has an MFA (fiction, 2003: three years of study, five years of obtaining signatures for thesis). Some of her work is published, some has won prizes, some festers. She owns an editing/writing business as formidable and obligatory as a reckless, couch-pissing dog you can't bear to return to the pound.

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