Issue 4

Daisy Fried
Three Poems

The Fat Lady

“Can’t talk,” I say, doing 85. “Can’t hear
or talk.” I snap shut the phone,
cut him off, hold the dead phone
to my ear like a hankie-wrapped
ice-pack to a contusion. I slow to 70;
the fat lady I cut off at the onramp
shouts through both our closed windows
so wide her mouth’s all teeth and
tongue and dark and her Jesus-fish
and troop loop ride away, I-95 rushing
up too superreal like a movie-promo
before digital got finesse. Green highway
signs only tell how to get where you
already know to go. Used car lots
flash by like jewelers’ windows;
last pale sheets of sun dribble away
as evening finds its shape against
the things of the ground,
loses shape becoming night—

She was tired of sad modern endings.
She was tired of modern sadness and ennui.
She narrated things calmly and swiftly
like an easy-running stream
beneath the racing jumping flux—
unnatural this hum of narration,
the way the sun’s unnatural—unreal—
she wanted 19th Century endings—
believably happy wives—
turn the radio louder…
the problem might be she calls herself “she”…

so they bleed, I’m toothing
dry skin off my lips, dropping the phone
on the car floor under the brake—
oil refineries are nets and
scaffolding and tinker toys set
far back from the road—and everywhere,
tire-tread shorn from truck-wheels,
collars and cuffs ripped free
and never swept up, washed up
along and leaning against and kissing
at the median strip, jumps up
to twang the chassis—I duck down,
pick up the phone, the car sways,
I hit redial, can’t stop choking—
“Look,” I say. “I won’t say sorry.
It’s nothing either of us did. Can’t we
just move on from here?”—“Can’t talk,”
he says, hangs up. No static. Smooth
techno-silence like a moral that’s
big, bigger than the road is fast.

How his hair lifts and falls. Ahead,
an explosion: brake-lights
sequentially burn back at her,
smoke pouf becomes a skein
they all drive through
: an
18-wheeler’s tire has blown
apart and now the truck limps
shedding tread that minivans,
Hyundais, Escapes, H2s, swerve
to avoid, graceful conga
line of cars.
                  She saw this driving
along, the veins of her breasts
the same blue as old roads, the cars
drag their red lights, movable
puddles, behind them.
The injured
truck clunks along the shoulder
toward the rest-stop ramp, tire
clinging to the back wheel rim
coming loose, whapping, slapping,
whacking the ground, like a wife
pounding her pillow, alone all night.

Kissinger at the Louvre (three drafts)


Kissinger in black-tie shuffles to the town car
idling at the museum complex edge
between where the glum Pei pyramid rises
and the gardens begin. “Is that—” I say,
and “Yes,” says Jim, baby in his arms,
me shoving the empty stroller to get home
by naptime. Nobody notices, clicking
at each other through camera phones, Kissinger
looking matchlessly neat, clean, ugly and
dressed by servants. His driver’s at the door,
arms stretched wide as in a fish-this-big tall tale
in welcome. The ear-wired bodyguard,
hand on Kissinger’s gray-fur head so it won’t
scrape the door-frame, bends him into the car.

If I were a different kind of poet, I’d put
Kissinger in front of The Raft of the Medusa
blinking at the father weeping for his son
lying dead over his lap as the sails
of the ship that will rescue them are
sighted on the horizon and the top man
in the spout of survivors waves his ragged
undershirt. Or I’d put him gazing reflectively
at The Death of Sardanapalus, a Potentate
presiding amid an exorbitance of fabrics
over his imminent suicide by fire,
slaves bringing in, in order of importance,
horses, gems, plate and favored concubines
for slaughter. I’m not that kind of poet.


Kissinger totters befuddled by culpability,
luncheon champagne and dotage. The car
eats him. I won’t pretend the bodyguard’s
Vietnamese or Cambodian, though that’s
the obvious truth-in-lies move—he’s French,
that ratface-handsome, smoked-out look—
and doesn’t care merde for history. He makes
the old man bow, same move with which
the beat cop, our public servant, submits
the petty criminal to the patrol car,
same move the anguished teenager got—
half-protective, half-corrective or coercive,
half-kind—after the arraignment for leaving
her newborn to die in a rest stop dumpster.

Anybody can understand the girl, and even
the purse-snatcher. Bodyguard bends Kissinger
gently in, portly little Kissinger, gloves his head—
anything hurt will be the hand of the servant.
Ecru upholstery with oxblood accents, minibar
something like a safe, CNN muted to newscrawl
and the anchor’s frozen-flesh face. The latest assistant,
gender irrelevant, busy with a BlackBerry across from him,
root beer-colored eyes and preternaturally neat hair
of La belle ferronière, keeps the lap desk, emergency
Magic Wand Stain Remover Stick, eyebrow brush
and dossier of Opinions in what looks like
“the football”—the nuclear war plan suitcase
Presidential aides carry at all times—but isn’t.


The one camera flash as he got in
gave Kissinger a headache. As they start
for his Avenue du President Wilson hotel,
the Rue de Rivoli sliding by in a haze,
he falls uncomfortably asleep to the anodyne
glow and murmur (“tournez à gauche”) of the driver’s
GPS device. The relieved assistant
opens an Imagist anthology. In Osaka, Oslo or Wasilla,
Alaska some weeks later, a woman at her kitchen table
uploads Paris vacation photos to her laptop.
“Who’s that behind me?” A dark figure. “He looks familiar.”
“How should I know,” says her husband.
“I’m trying to get Baby to eat more potato.”
“Oh well. I look fat in it,” she says. And deletes.


      Twenty years ago, I squeezed
onto the edge of the Knights of Columbus
stage to escape a lot of leaping, bashing bodies
as Hüsker Du did “Eight Miles High”
and Jeff shielded May with his tallish
body and she slam-danced inside the frame
of him. That’s all. Afterwards on the liquid
city street the screeching still running
up and down my veins, I was going to help
May when she was going to smash her head
into the belly of a frat boy who laughed
at us except after all he didn’t
want to get into it and walked away.
The world’s repeatedly saved by people
whether right or wrong just goddammit
not wanting to get into it.