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Bernadette McBride


used to mean starlit passion; pale sun slanting
to the quiet foot of Biardís Fame; lovers --

bounding issue of shuttered flats -- laying lusty
picnics on Montmartre, its soft twilight yielding
shadow enough to stir fervor for a life of art
and quirk.

A coarser age now, our romance shrunk, fine
associations are ordered to the corner beneath
the pointing finger of Media Gone Wild. Her

name now spurs an urgency to change the channel;
click the mouse before weíre lured, gapers, to
the calamity bred of a silvered slide to excess:
prison gates wheeze open, shut; open, shut

under the weight of privilege. Please,
Paris, when they open next, give us back
our inheritance.

On The Necessity of Painting

One season we lived
in a space, at once
an incubator; a terminal.

Paint peeled; rough laughter
pealed from the strip club
down the block, and one
Friday Kenny the Super
found the source
of the week-long smell:
old Mrs. Mahoney
had died in her bath.

That night I painted
a happy hippie sun of a prayer
on the living room wall,

squeezing onto a citrus-green
Melamine plate
coiled snakes of primary
colors who bled
into petals around a dome
of Titanium White. I oozed
them to an intention
with linseed oil saved
in a plastic take-out cup

from Lernerís Deli. It
had held kosher pickles;
still smelled of garlic
and brine, and the cocktail
of oil and vinegar
made my dawning sacrament
lick his lips, smile broadly
through right-gazing eyes;

laud my effort to bridge
the sour to the sweet.

Jumpiní Jack Flash

Undulate lips, skinny hips bedevil
in the limelight. Balletic still,
in scoop-necked spandex, he prowls liquid
to the roar, his strut blowing sweat

in rubies west of his body -- out past
the horizontal tails of his crimson morning
coat. A top hat binds his crown; the splayed
hair below bouncing off a glittered collar

like a saddled tunic hem of a knight
of the road. A neoteric Byron -- mad, bad,
dangerous to know--how could he fade away;
to ride wild,

wild horses unbound -- fists in the air;
snarl his dare at the heavens. Labor,
as he does tonight, time still on his side.

©2007 by Bernadette McBride

Bernadette McBride was the second-place winner of the international Ray Bradbury Creative Writing (poetry) contest in 2006. She teaches writing at several East Coast colleges, including Temple University. Her work has appeared in various journals, and is forthcoming in Ibbetson Street Press and The Penwood Review, among others.

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