I can’t promise not to laugh but yes, sir
I’ll jump your gun. I’ll ride that handlebar
all the livelong day, all the way home
crying wolf and foul and love me
tender. As long as the holster’s real—
soft enough to warrant this
fuss, hard enough to crack.
Then give me something meaty
for the main course, a fresh hand,
Dealer’s Choice: the deep end
for this flop, turn and river.
Of course you cut the cards,
we can’t afford to cheat at this
not-so-blind bluff. But do you
really think I could stack
the deck against you?
Oh babe. Ante up.
You can’t let me get away with this
playing dumb, and winning.
ON THE QUESTION OF WHO SHE IS
You were bashful and warm, my argument for men
and women being friendly, until the autumn you left
a stare lying around for anatomy to pick up and ply
into proper goodbyes. You taught me to hitchhike
and that I am selfish. You stopped asking important
questions: whether I remember your second-favourite
constellation, that sketchy ride out of Croatia,
the angry border and two wrong trains that took us
to Verona, or your picture of me wearing all grey
in June, blending into the concrete under Juliet’s balcony.
Smaller, weaker, I can hold her down and I do
because in all my quiet practices, I never
underestimate the physicality of control.
She has this too-soft cheek I’ll someday smash
with kisses and roll in her cigarettes until we cough
our smithereens to a laugh. I want her to come
when I cross the street. If she were hungry I’d build
her a church, and I told her about you. So now I stay
still and wait, on the surface, on the tension of the wet
reflections in my eyes, signs that will certainly be
taken for some sort of currency, held up as evidence
that I push too hard, that nature has laws,
that the beauty of life is that it’s impossible
to be sated. To relax. To say that actually, I have
nightmares about leaving scratch marks
on the underside of her thigh, and this morning,
the dirt under my nails does not remind me of you.
K.T. Billey was recently an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow in Poetry at Columbia University. Originally from rural Alberta, Canada, her poems have appeared in CutBank, The New Orleans Review, Phantom Limb, and others. She translates from Spanish and Icelandic, with poems in Palabras Errantes and multi-genre work forthcoming in a yet-unnamed anthology by Columbia University Press. She is an Assistant Editor for Asymptote and Girls Write Now mentor. Say hi at www.ktbilley.com.