Whoever put that air conditioner in the apartment window
must not have seen the cardboard and duct tape mildewing
and sagging around the cracks in a kind of caving,
like a black star’s open funnel,
an energy collapsing and pulling into itself
debris, radiation, dark matter, until nothing.
Stand too close and anyone might disappear, roaring
into an electric fury of silence—
it’s like when we lived in that motel and she sent us
to go play in the empty pool when her friends arrived—
the AC on high, the curtains halftorn, the walls thrumming
as the motor bucked and whined, but never choked.
Cardboard patches, taped seams, nothing could stop it,
like those years that went on and on and on with her
until they ended.
Central air is better, or winter, or starving until the bones show,
as is living elsewhere like underwater, at sea,
near the polar caps, under the holes in the sky.
She played with one of us
to five hundred before the TV,
the brown eye’s predictable flicker. Low lights
swam in smoke, incense. We could win
points, but never the game. We discarded
aces and queens—our face cards—to the table.
Out to get me, aren’t you,
she often said, as she shoved
the cards across the blue comforter
for our shuffle. We never learned
to throw a hand her way
but we wanted to, then.
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of more than a dozen books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her recent books are The Bottle Opener (Red Dashboard, 2014), American Galactic (Martian Lit Books, 2014), Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), Queen of the Platform (Anaphora Literary Press, 2013), and Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012). Her newest chapbook is Threnody (Porkbelly Press, 2014). Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, Arts & Letters, and Feminist Studies.