I try to soften the words in my mouth,
cotton candy sweet, pillowcase whispers
in the bridge. I saw Buckcherry once
when I was a music critic and Josh Todd
stalked the stage like a coyote, nothing,
just ribs and muscle. It was harder, then:
he wanted a singalong song, and sure,
doesn’t everyone? A rosary of rock
to repeat with the prophet onstage
the skinny boy who got sober
but still sings “Lit Up” with desperate glee—
but so do I. Once, I watched fireworks
from a friend’s car in backed up traffic
and when “Crazy Bitch” came on the radio
my young body shot out the moonroof
every word, a howl at the empty smoke signals
my friend, laughing: was he afraid of me?
I never know when I look back, now.
On the plane, there is a toddler in front of me—
eyelashes so long he looks still and cold
like a doll, like nothing that extreme could be real.
He examines his fingernails up against
the morning sun of the window, and the reflection
startles me: when do we start looking
at ourselves? How could I have ever
climbed out the top of a car and not worried
that I was turning into the crazy bitch,
someone who only needed to be good
at one thing? And how can this child
have infinite futures stretched, miles in time,
one of which almost certainly involves
his slim body held together with a belt
and the anxiety of a canid creature whose power
is that of sneakiness and trickery?
or will his trick— his life— be trying to say
the crassest words the softest way, his lips
slack and loose, his mouth close to an ear?
He might laugh, but will he think
Get back in the car, you crazy—
Crazy— no. Now he’s pointing at clouds
and he’s said so loud, so sharp,
“We’re above the birds, I’m in the sky.”
That’s what I meant that night, smelling
phosphorous: look at me. I am in the sky.
I am a coyote. I am angry with tender
rage. My body is tense and yelps
at a moon lit with colored gunpowder.
I would be crazy to sit, strapped in
and ignore this rigid enjoyment, the tight
feeling before even harsh words
turn soft, turn my angry teeth to gums.