Kara Dorris

Alice in Wonderland Crime

Two dead kittens in my backyard—
I can’t pierce the red clay, dig the hole
that will both forget & save,
can’t blame husky for listening to instinct.
Which is worse: to hold

these deaths against him or not to?
You should have checked the back fence,
my lover says. Should have taken
those kittens into my cupped palms as they slept.
Instead, I watched flies gravitating

to fast-drying wet in their eyes, sorry
they entered this world
thinking they were safe, lured here
with indifference. Do we truly want
to remain unharmed?

Orpheus looks back, & he never sees
Eurydice’s eyes, but I know they were blue,
pushing against lids, her body soft
& twitching, secretly glad.
It is instinct to harm & be harmed.

A silver moth landed on my silver car,
bringing salt & sadness, four needle-pricks,
but I pushed its otherness into the street,
adjusted the rearview mirror to see the glint
of sun against wings,

then backed out of the driveway like a bulldozer
through the eye of a needle.

Valentine’s Day

We should get married, he says,
if this thing turns serious.

Red light waiting to turn
left on Where ‘o Where Lane,

somewhere in the world it’s Valentine’s Day
or, at least, the night before,

& in the darkness it’s easy
to laugh at gallows humor

when he says in lieu of a wedding registry
we can start a Go-Fund-Me

to pay for cancer treatments.
Is this irony? Even if

we vow until death, can I start
hip-deep, two feet slippered

in the underworld? Should we marry
for insurance perks?

He asks me, if love is simply a willingness
to care, what’s in an end?

Whatever the scar, whatever is left,
just tramp stamp over it

with Whitman, & then, even our flesh
shall be great poems,

for however long we last.

***

Kara Dorris holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas and is currently a visiting assistant professor of English at Illinois College. Her full-length collection, Have Ruin, Will Travel, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She has also published four chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, I-70 Review, Puerto del Sol, Waxwing, and Crazyhorse, as well as the anthologies Beauty is a Verb and The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked.

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