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—
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.