The flush of blood in your cheeks
when Paul Frenson cuts a slab
of gouda and screams your number,
like he screamed at you in high school
when you dated so naively,
like the Satan in heaven dancing wild child
to a corrosive rhythm undulating.
A grocery store has never been so cancerous
until the year you stoop back in, knowing
Frenson is watching you behind the mustard
on his break, while your feet jitter on the
linoleum and your wrist watch shivers
not from the quartz, not from how cold
the dull moonlight of a forever store is
over the walls of prepackaged chips
already starting to crackle and break.
The parking lot: the Satan’s shit hole,
the gravel wasteland between the road
and the wheel, the metal campus of cars
where no one lingers too long, as you
find your small Station Wagon, as you
find yourself twitching again, creeping the
pocketbook over your shoulder again, and
feeling around the humid air so soggy, and
gripping the moonlight in the forever store
with your drifting sight, as it’s drifting light,
and you startle yourself
when the fluttery bags in your arms shift from your forearm
to the corner of your frozen hand.
They mention on the news, they they they,
about the crack heads rising in Jersey be-
cause the cows are injected with strange hormones,
brothers to Zeranol and Trenbolone,
fixtures within the macabre. They they they
always talk when you flip the switch,
forever creep around the static,
it’s like an erotica for them,
to watch you as they pray their speech
of violence and rape in the streets.
It’s here and all. Tread below.
Jersey girl, they wore you like a jersey,
girl, sported you in the bleachers, skin-
bleached in the white sun, hair blonding
in the donning of a radiant apollonian scar.
You were beautiful, weren’t you
they they they always want to know
they they they always want to know more
they they they always want to know more about you,
They were strong when they held you, lived long
when they held you, spoke wrong in the football game
and you weren’t a person to them. And you weren’t be-
cause the cows are maimed by bulls in the fields,
and that’s how it is
in a South Jersey town.
More groceries two weeks later. Sometimes
strong arms aren’t good for the farmer. Some-
times when you pluck a pepper from its spout,
you need the subtlety. You need the subtlety
when you pass Frenson, big ol’ boy behind a greasy counter,
he’s a man, now, better than before, new and improved,
state-of-the-art Paul Frenson, football guru, field warrior,
condom savant, his parents forgot to lose him and they were
given a sow from the fields to play with the other bulls, that’s
your Paul Frenson, miss, he’s a pepper, a flippant spore of spice
floating from his teary eyes, now he’s cutting pepperjack, you see?
Now he sees you, miss. You’ve always wanted strong arms
but a farmer like you needs the subtlety, you need to
watch out for Frenson. Weren’t you his Jersey girl?
Weren’t you his “be mine”? Weren’t you his mistress of the field,
courted queen to his jocky harangues? A harem of footballers
at your knees and at your breasts all the same,
Jersey girl, big world for you without strong arms. Without a husband
you’ve been so alone in the south of this small peninsula,
nothing new about the plains, the fields, the cities, the chaos
that beleaguer you everyday. You see the subtleties in the landscape
that tyrannize you. You see the mystery of the on-sale fruits and vegetables,
papayas from countries you can’t see, melons from a south you’ve never seen,
peppers from plants that grew under your feet and screamed to be plucked dead,
gnawing at your galoshes dirtied from the mud you’ve cried for and about and
“Dream eyes! Take us down around, Miss Jersey Girl, tumble-
twirl, eat some Trenbolone, pickle it in your arteries so we can consume you
and make you ours. Dream eyes - strong arms - eat us, little girl.”
The gravel lot. 7 ‘o’ clock. The quiet town. They they they
haven’t seen you in some time. You’ve stopped listening.
You’ve removed the TV portrait of its power, and you’ve
heard their ties and petticoats cringe and criminal minds
gallop across the timeline of South Jersey for too long,
and and and
visions of good things to come, good beaches to explore,
good farms to support in the warm August growth, the
in-between of the renewal and the harvest, when cows are
plucked from their virginity for their ovaries and bulls gorge and gore.
You settle the bags in your arms. You do not jitter. You do not
You settle the bags in your car. You do not shiver. You are not
You fumble for your keys and in the moment there is a breeze,
sometimes ghosts are not too far away from the town they devoured
but some ghosts are new, freshly dead, wont to be eschewed.
Gun muzzle in your back,
your blouse feels like the jersey made from your farming clothes
when you were just a small girl, when you were playing football with your eyes
and with your knees and with your breasts, when guys were gods,
and there’s a gun in your back, neckline of a thousand pins breaks
as it’s cocked. When you turn around, Frenson
is just a memory compared to this girl. She has blue eyes, and in the solemn light
of a lamppost the veins pop and spark along the cornea, through the aqueous;
her tank top reeks, her skin festering, her under pits reminiscent of the Satan
as he rolls along 55 South for weeks without retreat, with a howl to dismay
the listening trees that sway in the aftermath.
Another girl is a shadow
with bigger eyes, night eyes, owl eyes, her greasy hair crusted cheese,
her hoodie a skin she forgot to keep clean, a despondence in her pose
that makes you think about strong arms, lacking strong arms, lacking what
they they they always said you had in your mystery voice.
“Give me your pocketbook, miss,” the girl with the gun whispers, and
all the trees hear her, the gravel is still, the chips are still, no crackling tonight.
The shadow behind her pulsates in a velocity unbound. Tread below-
Looking for a sound, you scream. The girls run.
The lights in the forever store flicker.
Paul Frenson hears you all the way in the back of the deli.
You’ve made it this far. It’s here and all.
I eat with disgusting flickers of the lip
and salivation my salvation from the aesthete.
I laugh knowing I am the Halloween witch,
the purple freak with the black hat and the nose wart,
the wooden something between my legs,
the awful stature and opinions of an evil hag.
I know I’m a grotesque corroborator
of the horror story life we all enjoy.
I know how I appear before my peers,
but I just can’t stop.
father of the groundlings,
iron beams sprouting like fennel,
foreground to a cool jetting,
the sky that heels cranes
to the ground and,
heals us with the hand that
holds the machine by a collar,
enveloped by the sweet smells
of licorice and carbon dioxide.
The ground is so tender.