/gale marie thompson

The Responsible

In any legal dispute 
there are two named parties. 
Flat sides on the blade of versus
stripped open like an impossible 
eyelid. But what if the victim 
is neither party, if she stands 
outside the blade and makes no sound, 
taking on all of her small boats? 
Because I am thinking of a little girl 
I didn’t know, once a girl, but now 
a dead woman I knew, just a bit, 
and the sweet things about her 
being alive: lemon berry shortbread 
and the backs of knees, raw dates, 
the thickest of milk and rage. 
I am still watching her tiny body 
gloss away. She the victim of someone 
else’s buckshot orbit. Who is responsible,
as in: who answers for this? 
Something happens to the sweet things. 
Warnings come like parades of geraniums—
indistinguishable from the last, 
but beyond beautiful. Thank you 
for this warning, we say. 
We look down into the violence 
of the votive, with its sticky red head. 
It’s what you might call a good suit
It dangles like a vine—no, it looms
at the end of each sentence. 
Nothing is arranged. The day is short 
but never ends, only folds in, over. 
The rooster’s queasy crow starts early 
and sickles, and sickles. It’s not the boot, 
but the hands that make the boot.

Jocasta, As I Hope She Wore It

—Martha Graham, presenting her costume for Oedipus Rex

What could she say? You tried to find 
her anger here, split her pelvis 
for an umbilical thrill. You tried 
to remake her, but she 
refused, with her black candle eyes, 
to look into the dank rot 
of your spring. It takes some time to roil, 
but when it does, the yard pivots—
foil-green flies scatter 
from their happy, dog shit homes. 
There must be an aphorism here
about thunder as discipline, 
how its roll and hone engraves 
from inside. Even Queen Elizabeth 
once remade herself a virgin 
in this soggy, pink light. Because 
this I know: that even evil men die. 
It’s constitutional. It’s the law. 
These are our days of pardon, but 
do not treat them with any delicacy. 
There are tufts of beauty on the earth, 
but the earth is ugly, and will not last. 

Gale Marie Thompson is the author of Helen or My Hunger (YesYes Books, 2020), Soldier On (Tupelo Press, 2015), and two chapbooks. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Tin House Online, The Adroit Journal, jubilat, BOAAT, and Crazyhorse, among others. She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. She is the founding editor of Jellyfish Poetry and co-host of the arts advice podcast Now That We’re Friends. She lives in the mountains of North Georgia, where she directs the Creative Writing program at Young Harris College.