You Said You Needed To Confess
But what you wanted was to undress
your pleasure, petal
by petal, down to pungent
to newborn green—
not repentance but release
above a precipice, swooping,
then landing in a roll
of limbs with the one
you finally told— unharmed,
on a firm but yielding slope.
Ah yes, so you hoped.
It’s now or never—
the slow way home by the river,
heart-to-hearts in parked cars, how he’s going to tell her.
Don’t tell her
there’s something she missed.
She’s precipiced but not abyssed.
A has-been who never was keeps working just because.
What It Leads To
I met him the summer I turned thirteen—
naked, caked in brine, embarrassed
by a sunditzed maiden’s presence.
Watching him wash and wrap in fleece,
wipe grit from his golden flask.
I would have bathed him in olive oil
myself if he had asked.
I lay across chenille to read
while my sisters sizzled outside.
my dripping one-piece on the floor,
the knotty pine all eyes.
A girl who fell in love with a stream
got bedded under a wave.
My mother’s vacuum nosed my door
and thumped as if to say
she knew what was going in there,
this was her final warning.
My night for dishes was every night,
and then I read till morning.
I cut across Fabulous Avenue
going home from the Russian produce-mart.
In each new mansion a vacancy
is vaulted up to the highest floor,
to the highest bidder as prices fall.
The townhouse residents were ticked
when a fabulous rooftop blocked their sun
and solar-paneled it all to itself.
They cursed the alderman’s kick-back butt
and littered the esplanade with junk.
Blame it on Botticino marble tiles
gleaming in their barefoot cool
though no one’s walked there without hard shoes.
The third floor jacuzzi hasn’t yet
spritzed anyone with its fabulous jets
or massaged the small of a well-toned back.
My shopping bag keeps chafing my arm,
ripe tomatoes—cheap and sweet.
I rest in the shade of a portico
grand and stately as Monticello.
Tonight I’m making dinner for friends.
We’ll bitch and joke and make new plans
for the future of our fabulous land.
Debra Bruce is the author of What Wind Will Do (Miami University Press of Ohio, 1997), Sudden Hunger, and Pure Daughter (University of Arkansas Press, 1983, 1988), with Survivors’ Picnic forthcoming for Word Tech. Her poems have been published in many journals and anthologies, including The Atlantic, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, and A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois Arts Council and awards from the Poetry Society of America and Poetry magazine. Sudden Hunger received the 1989 Carl Sandburg Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library. She is Professor of English at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.