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The Plateau
by Carellin Brooks

Some days I woke up feeling on top of the world, like being

poised at

the crest of a hill,

in my $9.99 silver shoes

I kept my mouth stained the colour of raspberries

her lips when I turned to look like bruised fruit.

The first cordonnier I went to worked in a dark green hole


by old racks of old shoes with chunks of wood for heels

he tossed my pair aside without looking. The next was too


I finally found a woman whom I trusted because of the dirt

under her nails,

permanent crescents of black

matched her hair.

I used to go to the laundromat up the street. when I needed

change I

went back and an old bent woman staggered up from behind the


rafters in the cubbyhole towards me.

I started going to the laundromat where my neighbour worked, it

was farther

away but my clothes seemed cleaner.

the threats he kept whispering, right behind us -

and i knew we were both wondering

how we'd provoked him,

the briefest of touches, our bodies or eyes.

We thought the policewoman might be able to-

but she smiled and said there was nothing she could do.

I wanted to follow him home the way he followed us. wanted to


open his throat.

firebomb his house.

print bastard on his forehead.

but you were on the comer with your bleeding eyes and your

heart in

your mouth, saying

don't leave me.

(smiling as if it made sense

when we knew it did not)

I wore less silver that year but more deliberately,

solid on my left hand like the promise of violence.

sliding around on those wrinkled sheets.

Any minute now I expect my heel to come loose,

sliding free under my weight,

making me stagger.

At Schwartzs they are serving up smoked meat and cockroaches,

platters and platters.

The man at my table, eating his sandwich:

greasy paper on a greasy face.

You don't like silver, do you?

pointing to my hand

'We don't like rainy weekends":

I am leading the class in drills

All those dropped consonants

beside a dreary highway stacked with lowrise buildings.

that yellow minivan

must be the only one in the city

he was following me for miles, my lover said.

are you sure he wasn't just looking for a fare?

as they spoke the policemen kept their eyes on the pictures in our


naked women sliding against the sheets.

she wouldn't let them in, not past the foyer.

she's sure

as she speaks I can see the pulse behind her teeth.

the yellow van

I keep seeing on the way to school

always just ahead

too far away for me to see who's driving

the pigeons settle onto the street,

she lifts her hair. The cafe is dark.

for a moment I see her mouth, without knowing her name.

you slid in beside me in the dark,

i was still half asleep when you whispered how

he tried to drive you someplace you had never been

but recognized anyhow.

i feel your arm under the sheet

surprised how solid you are against me.

but you didn't stop talking

you made him drive you home.

you saw the pulse in his neck as he slid away down the street.

we were glad for a rain

after all that dust,

even forgetting our umbrella

like we always did.

we were walking arm in arm

when we heard the shout.

She took off her glasses. It was her friend from school.

we laughed and laughed more from relief than anything else.

sometimes I just get this urge to grab onto something

that won't give way.

all those close cropped heads

those bared delicate necks

drawing me up like sap

they laughed when they saw how blue her lips were.

her open mouth,

the taste of vinegar on their eggs.

the neighbour is still wearing her slippers, broken down heels

dirty and pink.

saliva pooling at the comer of my mouth

the thread glistens in the projector beam.

i could swear my lips were shut.

forming the consonants,

that dark classroom.

i am leaking all the time now,

onto these sheets

even in windowless rooms.

Sometimes I just want something solid against my chest.

the guard in his box.

the air in that elevator.

the brown air on her brown hair.

the splash of liquid on my skin.

i am watching

i am sliding


Enunciate the ing (my slick lips)

I am sliding.

The staircases leading down to the street.

You, here, smiling.

It's dark but I can still see the gleam of your teeth

when you brush against me.


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