Nicelle Davis


Elizabeth Magill

As Songs Travel Past Their Singers (the reprise)

When she knew you were in her,
            she clawed off her skin and lay
                    sensation like a pair of nylon
                            stockings over a space heater.
                    With the smell of toasting legs,
            she lathered her raw body in sea
salt and oil. Lavender jam; scent
            like the summer she planted seeds
                    in an egg-carton to grow a bouquet
                            for her father’s grave. She was five
                    when the bed of a semi-truck took
            his body off. He sold life insurance.
Her mother bought her gold high-
            tops and beat her. Last I knew,
                    she was rewinding the image of her
                            lover fucking another woman on
                    a camcorder. I told her to stop
            watching but she couldn’t stop.
Daily doses of acid put a skip in her
            record. That is to say, she’d just come
                    out of the shower—convulsing naked
            under me as I tried to contain her fit.
The only other time I held her naked
            was the day she was born. We were
                    almost sisters. We were kids with purple
            popsicle beards. We played M.A.S.H.
We circled the number: you. We waited.
            In a cold tube, her Father appeared
                    as a gathering of wings singing, I have yellow feathers to weave into a dress for you. She sent him scattering in
            a fractured migration. Let’s just say,
she had the knife that could have
            picked the lock on heaven, but
                    she wouldn’t go where she couldn’t
                            take you. She birthed and left you.
                    Without you, she sings for you;
            a song traveling the distance
in a lineage of broken birds.

Dolly

I almost have enough to rebuild you.
Hidden in a box:
a dried purple-cord, the binding string
of circumcision,
your gossamer-thin hair, three eyelashes,
an unwashed
burping cloth, a baby-jar full of drool.

I could sew your likeness into a doll. Pretend
you back again. In my arms
a burlap sac; something like a head, a body,
and limbs embellished with
fragments I’ve collected. Scent like a spirit.

December 1980

The Gospel of Judas is stolen from a male antiquities dealer.
The heist is organized by a woman with well manicured nails.
She runs her reds under the purple lining of his jacket. He lets her
take photos of his entire collection. He poses next to the door lock.
_____

Judas sold Jesus for thirty silver pieces and / or a kiss. As a traitor,
my bets are on the long shot kiss. It’s my only chance at winning.
_____

Mark D. Chapman has just finished catching small children
from jumping off of cliffs when he decides to take a trip to New
York. He is tired of everyone looking towards the wrong light.
John Lennon is no Jesus. No sir. The phonies got to go. Yes sir.
_____

I break into this world while my mother is working at an antique shop.
I christen a Victorian rug with embryonic fluid. The old is stained new.
_____

No one yet has read the codex. No one knows it’s Judas howling in
that papyrus. The antiquities dealer gets the scrolls back. The woman
disappears. What are the chances that gun shots are synchronized—
bullets organized into choirs to make harmonies of this world—
_____

I want to believe we’re mimics of the divine. John Lennon accepts
Chapman’s kiss with gratitude. All is done in, with, and for Love.
_____

Judas is locked in a safety deposit box in Hicksville, New York; rotten
humidity eating chunks out of his words. A gun is grown into the flesh
of Chapman’s hand. John Lennon bleeds on the steps of the Dakota. I
recognizing color for the first time. My eyes focused on mother’s light.
_____

Jesus says, forgive you, if you forgive me. Judas says, forgiven you, but I
won’t forgive me.
Jesus says, well, we’ll just have to keep this show going then.
_____

Mother says, I didn’t mean to burn you. I am too young to understand—
language: fire is a verb substitution for love.

The Painting Process in Two Mediums

Chiaroscuro
                                   [as adultery]
is making love in reverse
                                   [screaming bright atop]
the canvas primed for
                                   [darkness]
              [Sacred Love]
versus
              [Profane Love]
by Master
                                   [who is to tell the difference?]
Giovanni—
                                   [are those feathers or knives]
the wings of Venus
                                   [being used for flight?]
against the face of Lucifer.
                                   [the brightest light—falling]
Baglione used the features of his rival
                                   [skin blushing under touch]
to enact a private war over church
              [Sacred / Profane]
commissions.
                                   [it began innocent]
A desire to be wanted—
                                   [denial a form of worship]
to be the inventor of contrast—
                                   [the sacred as profane]
to make fantasy real—
                                   [the emerging shape of]
paradise.

Nicelle Davis lives in Southern California with her husband James and their son J.J. Her poems are forthcoming in Broadsided, Front Range, FuseLit, Moulin Review, The New York Quarterly, Offending Adam, Picture Postcard Press, SLAB Magazine, Superficial Flesh, Transcurrent Literary Journal, and Two Review. She’d like to acknowledge her poetry family at the University of California, Riverside and Antelope Valley Community College. She runs a free online poetry workshop at The Bees Knees. December 1980 first appeared in Elimae.