Lynn McGee

Who I Was, Before We Met

Melody can be a blade.
A sword can sing.

Geography gives us weapons,
and musical instruments.

It isn’t the most toys
that win, it’s what the toys
are made of:

metal, bone, flint, wood —
and even then,
time grinds all things
to particles,

to the fog where we began
and you are not
shiny. You are not
calcified. You are not
fibrous —

we aren’t yet cells.
We aren’t yet our selves.
I don’t hear your song.
I don’t feel your blow.

My Beautiful Escape

Wind turbines harvest air. Propellers shear wind.
You watch from a distance, and weaponize
all you touch.

A killer can wield a paintbrush, populate a canvas.
A killer can yearn for a calzone scooped
with a wide wooden spatula from the stone floor
of a brick oven. A killer gives you his seat
on the train, waits in line behind you at the store.
He sees humans like a blade sees wood:
Could I cut through that?

Freedom sounds like crickets. They scrape wings,
shrieking for a mate. You know how to make a woman
feel special and she sends a surprise, saw blade
embedded in a block of shredded meat.
You wipe off your treat.

Release is a raptor unlocking talons from a handler’s
leather-clad arm, pushing off and pumping
toward sun, humerus straightened by a metal pin,
the wing’s mended mast.

Release is a largemouth bass hemorrhaging
from the lip, twisting midair and smacking the lake’s
mirrored surface, finding traction in the cold,
green depths, gills flushed with red.

Release is ducking into a steam pipe, crawling
Marine-style toward light, fabric torn at the elbows,
dragging your legs behind you.

It took three people to enact your crime.
One heaved a torso into a lake and it wobbled
to the surface. One drove over a cop, hitting him
like a speed bump. One shagged her boyfriend,
and her husband watched from across
the parking lot, bushes shaking
like a grass skirt.

Insects scribble through the air.
Search teams in camo fan out through the forest
and you skid on pine needles, guitar case
of clothing, peanuts and beef jerky strapped
to your back. You run downhill, zigzag
around pine trees and take refuge in a trailer,
moss darkening its ribs.

You escaped once from a foster home, small boy
riding bareback on a horse he stole. Now
you sketch a horse on a peeling wall, outline
it with a black box. The state police gallop
toward you.

You take a woman down with you, and she swings
her blunt-cut hair like hatchet blades, strides
back to her cell — orange crocs, white
socks, ankle chain. No one held a gun
to her head and made her lay her body down
like a bridge, a moving sidewalk that spared you
the effort of walking. She would approve,
I think, as I delete messages all the way back
to Union Square before Christmas, ten Christmases
ago, craft art fair and striped canvas roofs
filling the park, my soon-to-be lover’s
voice like that of a female Hugh Grant, wry
and a little shy, captured on my phone bemoaning
the blizzard, determined to soldier
through it, to meet me.

Lynn McGee is the author of the poetry collections Tracks (Broadstone Books, 2019) and Sober Cooking (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2016), as well as two award-winning poetry chapbooks: Heirloom Bulldog (Bright Hill Press, 2015) and Bonanza (Slapering Hol Press, 1997). These poems here are from THE TV IN THE OTHER ROOM, a manuscript infusing personal narrative with that of TV shows, feature films and streaming series from the second half of the 20th century to the present.

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