E l i s a b e t h   W o r k m a n

Moonlight as Singer in Cul-de-Sac

Skipping, Mrs. Freedman says, is simple, easier
than learning how to walk. She pulls my colt legs
out of class to show me so we start in a circle, but end
up in a line like ants I think like the word from our history lesson:
Industrial is how we do it in the assembly line the grocery
line the strike of teachers before the frost the cool way
De Niro walked in that movie where he moved like a crab
but not really with claws more with that speed. I think
it was a mob and he was alone.

To be the one who can't do, whose body fidgets
in disbelief among competitors I'm an accidental rebel
thanks to my uncoordination I refuse to move like they
do or swim perfect patterns at the public pool at noon where
I'd rather burn my feet where the water didn't lick
the concrete walk instead I'm dared to stand
on the bouncy board the one way up here where my toes
curl like barnacles around the edge where someone
orders me to dive. A horsefly green on my nose.

I'd rather take the escalator, or gallop really fast away
from this clot of old sweat and shorts, away from the cult
of boys huffing behind me but my feet are stupid
refusing to move, like velcroed cinder blocks, because
I was slow too in learning how to tie two laces to make
a butterfly bow. This fear of the motionless is the fear
of momentum, the devastation of competence in the face
of a question. Mind full of cul-de-sacs I have
a secret to tell before we try this again. Sister swear
not to tell the others I'm still scared to go beyond the mailbox
to touch the street even myself.

Somewhere else is the music class with Mrs. Saks
singing patriotic songs in her slippery voice that makes
us red and looking at each other when she reaches up
into that high note and holds it too long so nothing
hides not even lip-prints on the water fountain spigot
the puddle of piss on the hardwood chair or the trigger
that boy makes with his fingers beneath
the desk the dirt beneath his nails and he's the one
a girl next to me whispers who took pictures of my down-
there after I fell off my bike and knocked my head
on the sidewalk got knocked out and he has Polaroids
to prove it.

What did I want to be told that here you sit
with your linear shoulders with your hieratic head
and there you'll go to relieve yourself of
yourself and nowhere but in there where sneakers
squeak on waxed floor do you move how
colonies spread with large steps lots of demolition
and boys first because they could always run
faster anyway and it wouldn't be moral to put you
in the same bathrooms. But I have these brush-burns
on my forearms I want to say where hairs turned
darker slicked with blood and I walk home
with my sleeves rolled up because I am so what




"Moonlight" was written at 116-11 Edith Street in State College, Pennsylvania, as a member of a larger body called _Something Else to Say_. Elisabeth lives in Mobridge, South Dakota, and is currently working on a collaborative project exploring/mapping the fluidity of identity and its mutations of landscape. She receives income as a city planner.