LAURA MADELINE WISEMAN / 3 WORKS
If Some Had Color, Others Went Without, Then the News
say my aunt was once gray, then she painted her bedroom in oceanic murals—starfish, bubbles, kelp. The rest of the rooms had standard white walls and gray carpet, not like an institution or jail, but close. Still, we watched a black-and-white TV. My favorite sailor dress was gray pinstripes, my best shoes, see-through jellies. How does color make us behave? We visited the ocean once to climb the sand dunes and caves, then beach walk where seals bobbed like men with pantyhose over their heads. Did they too keep guns in their coats? Did they stake out banks, like old school robbers in a Sherwood forest, reallocating money, that justice? The fog, like the bills, swirled against us, even then. I was just a kid. I rode a bicycle. Every piece of food was split. It must’ve been then that the island stories started. Some reported it never sunk. Others broadcasted wreckage. This went on and on. Grayness had prevented us from seeing, but with the ice melting, the color range shifting
If the Snow Melts Beyond the Pillars, Then the Winds
finally beyond the beach, the edges of that harbor town, we cross a cattle gate, follow a road with barbed wire fences to a footpath. In a clearing, doughnuts cut snow to mud, though there aren’t vehicles anywhere. After another cattle gate, the burn appears—nude branches white as teeth against the char. A few evergreens remain. You point out what you think is a geo-marker. I point out what I’m sure is a shrine. In the distance, antennas transmit something. There is a hum in the air. Then more doughnuts. Then another cattle gate. Where are the cattle? I ask. How can this be grazing land? Then my mala slides off of my wrists and half-way down the hill. When I scramble back up to our bikes again, I check my map, the compass, my watch. That’s fifty miles. I need to eat. It seems wrong to tend to animal needs out there, but you turn away just as
If You Gamble, Then I Still Won’t Touch
say, What happens on the island, then move your man ahead. We play another hand, working the cribbage board. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I eat a snack, study the oceanic crashes, or try to calculate wind speed by the buck of trees. Sometimes we tie. When we rented that pyramid room in Vegas, you played roulette or poker, sometimes me. Did you know what we might lose or the showdown of islands long sunk? Sometimes I think about the touching. Sometimes I think what the touching must’ve meant. Remember when we found the mint and I made tea? The scent reminded me of your naked lips. Then, you’re mad again. Then, I am, but my anger lifts, like a shift of the wind. You win a round, make the snooty face, then disappear. When you return later, you say, Look—variety. Some weird fruit. By then I’ve napped when I’d meant to read, or built sandcastles to touch a warmth I didn’t have to make. We lost the house, the business, all possessions; then you traded the rest, but
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the editor of two anthologies, Bared and Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Book List. She is the recipient of the 2015 Honor Book Nebraska Book Award, a Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets Award. Her book Drink won the 2016 Independent Publisher Bronze Book Award for poetry. Her latest book is Through a Certain Forest (BlazeVOX [books] 2017). Her book Velocipede (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), is a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist for Sports.