“Cross Examination of Consciousness” by Jim Daniels

A piece of ass, not fruit,
she was known as
scrawny little bitch
with raccoon eyes
and raccoon hiss
and switchblade
in her right boot

so who would’ve known,
thought to know, find,
discover, unwrap, be
delicate enough to unwind
the rind to her tender spot?

She made her picks
I want to say got her kicks
but have no clue what’s true
in the unwrapped silence
taken as consent
taken as contempt
taken gladly madly
in the cold-coughed
air of November on Mars
February in Detroit
behind the spaceships
of our drunken cars
in parking lots crumbling
into grief, abandoned
by businessmen and machinists
trampolinists and sigh-masters.

Oh, if she pulled you back there
you were getting some
she was taking some
moon or not
and no one refused her
confused her with politeness
or generosity.

If she was a fruit she was un-
ripened, hard, unwilling
to give herself over
to melting, to juice
to tears and memory.

She used the knife
not an acoustic guitar
or scented candle
she shoved it to the handle
and we who had been witnesses
teenaged boys of careless fitness
and limited ambition for heaven
and limited abandon for joy
shrunk into denials and let him
bleed to death for his greed
his need overriding her backward
steps the funk of a dumpster
the strangled refrain of broken

because she loved him, she said
in her confession, and shed
tears, worthless as she imagined—

okay, he lived, though we would have
let him die there, another way
of not caring, dulling the blades
of our own young hearts.

Did she cut an apple with her knife?
Peel it in a continuous red loop?
We witnessed the disappearance
of her coat-hangar life:
she said fuck and hiccupped
her tears into snot, turning to run,
then running, her, the barking of her
boots, a piece of nothing
but herself. One of us had laughed,
one of us had crumbled. The rest of us
lined up and took our penance, one by one,
tossing our knives in the dirt
where they harmed no one
where they protected no one.

Jim Daniels’ recent books include Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry (Carnegie Mellon University Press), All of the Above (Adastra Press), and Trigger Man (Michigan State University Press), all published in 2011. Birth Marks (BOA Editions) will appear in 2013.