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Portrait of Woman as Coal Mine

They abandoned you like the land. Your bones

collapsed, your breath,

the friction of shadows springing

fire from torn rock. Your pipe scorched

holes in summer’s green upholstery.

You were careful to smoke out the sun.

One clear day, I saw you in the light.

You laughed like a fox hit by a car.

Not quite dead. At the punk bar

you spat blonde beer in the eye

of a woman who presumed to strike

electricity from your veins.

The woman was you. From yourself

you cobbled an enemy. Composed

and silenced her dead canary stare,

the memory of song like monoxide hissing

in used-up pits of skull, the one you

cut from a photograph

of Amy Winehouse, of Rosa Luxemburg,

of Saint Lucy holding her eyeballs

on a silver plate. I heard you

burn your enemy on a bare mattress.

She left the next day with one

fake eyelash dangling like a question.

You pressed bruises shaped like horse heads

on her elbows and wrists, each

joint screeching, but she kept

coming back, ashing on eyeshadow

for your cracked camera phone.

Your enemy feared you. Feared

for you. So you split her in half.

One half stole your cash, ran away.

The other shed her body, became

a voice. The fire rages, it said.

You actually cackled. The voice repeated

The fire rages, the fire rages, the fire—

Rages—a boyish

boring verb, you joked, gathering

what was left of the air,

a long clean needle

pinning a cicada shell.

You said, Isn’t this fun?

The body danced in the heat.

I loved you for as long as I could.


CLARE WELSH is a writer and photographer based in Pittsburgh. Her recent works have appeared in Entropy, Ghost City Review, and Salt Hill. She is currently working on two full-length books of poems and photographs. She works at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is a COAL fellow.


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