Cathleen Calbert

February 11, 2013 Calbert Cathleen



The prettiest state,
said my friend Elizabeth.
Or was it the prettiest name?

Either way, Florida has to be
warmer than Troy,

What birds live in Florida?
Are there alligators and crocodiles
shedding tears?

Are there orangutans?
Are there chimpanzees?
Do you think they’re crying?

land of hanging chads
and immigrants.

Remember that woman?
Her face like a dragon’s.
Bush league.

In Florida,
does a woman dream
of Michigan?

that stupid boot,
banana republic.

There was a girl.
Remember her?
A slut, a cigarette pig.

She had a baby at fourteen,
then lived in the woods
at the end of her street.

Flint, Detroit, Lansing.
What does it mean
to throw a girl away?

She hoped to take her girl
to SeaWorld. Why not shoot
for Epcot? Killer whales?

My friend Elizabeth
also liked to drink herself
into oblivion in exotic locales.

Of what did Elizabeth dream?
Toucans? Manatees? The drowned
skirt of an Indian princess.

A state of pink shirts and flamingoes.
What if Florida broke away,
floated into Cuba?

What lies in the water?
Eyes of dead bikers,
opalescent and semiprecious?

It’s the sunshine state, okay.
But are there egrets? Pelicans?
Birds of paradise?

One speaks of Floridians
as if they were a bright kind
of amphibian . . .

Of what does a girl
in the woods dream?
Pepsi and Moon Pies.

Driving off in El Dorados,
Coupe de Villes,
Pontiac Sunbirds.

Blowing men.
Doing men for money.
Blowing men away.

People just started messin’ with me . . .
they just started comin’
like flies on shit.

Are there anacondas in Florida?
Are there orange groves?
Are there guns?

After seven
dead men, of what
does a woman dream?

Embedded my flesh
and soul with deep inequity . . . .
You sabotaged my ass, society.

Her last meal:
KFC and French fries
(twenty dollar maximum).

took her ashes
back to Michigan.

Taint my blood with yours.
Translate me through the star board
and bring me home eternal ever more.

Does Florida have
the praying mantis?
Scorpion? Coral snake?

Can you swim
with dolphins? How much
does it hurt them if you do?

What do you think
they put into your veins in Florida?
The tears of an Indian princess?

Cathleen Calbert has published four books of poetry: Lessons in Space, Bad Judgment, Sleeping with a Famous Poet, and The Afflicted Girls. Her work has appeared as well in many other publications, including the Nation, Paris Review, and the New York Times.