Self-Portrait with Extended Thumb
July, asphalt, Nebraska—hopping in cars with anyone
headed wild or west. My barometer of common sense
is busted, or I’m just twenty-two & swaying hard
toward a death wish. I haven’t yet learned to mistrust—
to stack bricks between me & the world, to be anything
but bug-eyed & borderless. I’m lucky as a house mouse.
No ride of mine’s unbuckled his belt & for this, for once,
I’m grateful. My limbs are too sweat-wet for fuckery,
my body a soup bowl left to sour in the sun. Cloaked
in nomadic stink, I’m poised & ready to be slungshot
into the canyon of my own misadventure. Nights, I crouch
beneath bridges. Days, I pace backwards, my thumb stiff
as if pointing toward a place I could call home. I’m alone
like a river’s alone—restless, beating, bubbling—
oxygen-drunk & seeking out the sea.
Self-Portrait with Crack Pipe & Megalomania
We came to Seattle thirsty, sandcastles packed in our throats, thick grit of street life & summer, & because we could not drink the Sound we drank each other: mouth to suckling mouth, then poured ourselves onto the ground for dogs & lovers lost along the way. It didn’t rain that year. The sun jockeyed our backs like horses—cropped us till we broke, then put us to bed with sweetgrass & moonshine. When you slept, I slapped flies from your haunches & tongued the wounds God left in us: the foil-burnt lips, the blackening teeth, the skinned & staph-ripe knees. Such is the price of being chosen for greatness. Blood trickled through my jeans. I bore the stain like stigmata.
Each day, a series of scavengings—money run, smoke run, money run, smoke run. I sang for spare change on the pier while you robbed a car wash. My voice splintered, a violin hurled at brick, & I thought of how you called me a sorceress—as if I could conjure a refuge for us, some safe mooring to grasp at. But who needs anchorage when your heart can thump like an over-punched clock? We hiked to the top of the city, inhaling the world fluorescent. A vulture snuck out the clench of your jaw, circled steady, beat her wings against the billowing white. We mistook her for a heron, guiding us headfirst into some brilliant stretch of sky.
Alicia Catt received her MFA from Minnesota State University, and is currently at work on a memoir about the sex industry. Her writing can be found in The Los Angeles Review, Salt Hill, Yemassee, The Pinch, and elsewhere. She lives in Minneapolis with her pitbull, Piggy.