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Jack Ruby

Kathy Shaidle
From:   Lobotomy Magnificat. Oberon Press, 1997.


Ten minutes before dinner with the sexy Communist someone turned me over in the ditch
— "Ballerina Criminology", Connie Deanovich

Their numbered arms shadow me everywhere
          :my license plate, my thermostat,
          my bank book balance and radio dial.
          Register tapes and Diners' Club cards.
          The Bible's chapter and verse.
          FOR A GOOD TIME CALL's arithmetic
          or a dollar bill's small poker hand.

Sure other people have tattoos
          :the sailors who've curled on my couch,
          their mothers and lovers still clutching;
          and some of my dancers
          have breast bouquets or garden thighs.
                    But they're names and hearts and roses--
                    they're love-bites and valentine scars--
                    that'll say who they were when their bodies are found,
                    not brand them as dead while they breathe...
          (My mother lives inside my watch,
          behind the numeral'd circle on my wrist
          :her tsking tongue, and constant crochet--
          slap slap slap go the hands)

                    When I stick in my finger
                    and dial the phone--
                    what if, someday (a magic spell)
                    I call up the digits
                    on a half-charred arm
                    that squeezes through the cord and claws my face?

Number's symbol is a cage,
one prisoner's boredom's tictactoe.
I posed before a lined and numbered wall,
my head like shot-glassed whiskey.
(Do you think my face will end up on a stamp,
a bruise of black numbers punched onto my nose,
thumb-printed like a side of beef?)

The day I shot that Nazi weasel punk,
I held out my arm
as if to give him,
friendly-like, my business card,
my numbered wrist, the
only thing I own.

That got him to open his mouth for me.
It pays to be polite.



Kathy Shaidle's works copyright © to the author.


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