Barefoot by a stream, in white dresses
my sister & I dropped petals into the river.
She said the current crafted a pattern—
the letter of a husband’s name.
I wished for the bookish woman with wild hair,
who smiled for the camera.
Molly, from the next farm over,
whispers stiff beneath her petticoat—
They say she tamed snakes
beneath her skirts.
Sister posed atop Bessie, the rib-strong mare,
hooves eager, tail twitching;
promised she’d plead Pa’s missing clothes
victims of a petty thief.
Before I left: small twin coffins,
my cousins haloed in Bloodroot
& Devil’s Paintbrush. The orange & yellow
blooms tainted their skin.
At school, I stood a head taller, sullen,
refusing to shake my tambourine.
They yanked Molly off the track just in time:
she wanted to die because of the gossip.
In the city library, we clutched knees,
gazed at men whose moustaches came loose.
I struggled into trousers,
leather dildo cool against my thigh.
Gertrude dubbed me Frank Blunt, unleashed
my hair with a knife, taught me to snitch.
Her warm hand slipped in my pocket; I grew
accustomed to a weight resting there.
For a woman, walking alone ain’t easy.
Some of the boys in this city throw dead cats
through our window. Tramps & incendiaries
haunt the doorstep & slit throats in the barn.
For our lonely urge; a poor man I made.
Beside the lake with clear water, we wed.
Petals arranged & benches overturned.
There was a clerk & preacher; neither suspected.
We honey-mooned on horseback,
on the road to Milwaukee.
She has a taste for the bejeweled.
I rob the store & scoot,
moustache slipping with sweat. My skirts—
discovered. Gertie weeps for half an hour.
She falls upon my neck in the jail.
The papers write us up. They don’t call it love:
I wouldn’t use that word for anything a pair of girls could do.