from "The city has sex with everything"

Catherine Wagner

The city has sex with everyone.
Sex with Kroger.
All over the city,
along the white-paint lines that separate parked cars,
parking lots are unzipping.
Between the lines the cars begin to bounce a bit, like babies,
and from the white lines
as they widen and crack and split
a milky fescue grows, reedy wet pathways, little streams
roseate with lilies, till the streams uprift the concrete
in grand dispersing E-shapes, and now across the lot
the broken lines extend until they meet—
the cars are islanded, really bouncing now
and Kroger opens all its doors—
there’s a big sale on—
“big sale” is how the Kroger understands itself to be consenting
to the city tendril-tunneling
its homeless homefree energy into the produce wing—
the products rapt and blooming breaking open—
plastic-wrap unravels on the floor—
the cashiers lie down in an expanding crack—
the milk in there is geothermal warm,
it bathes the cashiers’ nipples,
they waft their hands along the reeds like baby Moses
and the Pharaoh’s daughter who discovers them is fluorescent light
reshaping itself (now that the ceiling’s gone)
into a floating peaceful missile
congealed of all the city people’s formerly constrained mutual care.
The care makes the fluorescence glow like an oil puddle
ridged in night and opaque peacock fur
till the missile (which is Pharaoh’s daughter flow-light)
sparks like an old engine
and ducks and dives
plays with its comet mates
caresses them in cloud and basking sun
and then remembers the cashiers
and lowers its soft missilic body, takes them
into its foggy spider-lightning womb
they close their eyes
and plan to lead the people
but the cloud-missile says rest
and they listen to percussion
of rows of imprisoned colored foodlike items
exploding in a fireworky mess, and the stray dogs
who lap at Kroger’s floor, soft-tonguing, and chew her meat.

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Catherine Wagner is author of Nervous Device (City Lights, 2012) and other books. Recent work appears in Chicago Review, Lana Turner and Journal of Poetics Research. She teaches at Miami University.

Split Level Journal

Issue 1

We (Karla and Aaron) started SplitLevel Texts in 2011 as a way to contribute something material back to the poetry world that we love. At the time, we had some clear ideas about what that would mean:

•publish only work both of us deeply love and believe in
•establish another outlet for the capacious experimental lyric tradition we both identify with
•publish important new titles and important titles that have fallen out of print

We also wanted to pay homage, editorially and in our design aesthetic, to other small presses we’d always admired, like Talisman House, Burning Deck, White Pine, and — yes — New Directions.

We wanted to be open to experiments in the way we published our books (we started by publishing on an Espresso Book Machine before moving on to other digital and offset printing models).

Finally, we wanted to price our books modestly. Poetry is essential.

SplitLevel Texts is a practical extension of what we do as writers, and we hope you’re interested. Our titles are warehoused and sold by our friends at Small Press Distribution.

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