The Boiler

Alexandra van de Kamp

NIGHTGOWN

Each night I sleep wrapped in a gown
of crying stars. Whether they cry
to plea or sing is always difficult
and tenuous to decipher. In my gown
of voices, I pitch and roll as if on a ship
at sea. I dream of sisters and brothers;
I dream of stroking my husband’s penis,
bright and flushed as an orchid, until
we are interrupted by the blond shores
of windows and the plaintive smell of cut hay,
its disheveled sweetness. The world’s a gallery
hung with the obsessive knowledge of light,
light that could be memorizing, as we speak,
one claw foot of the world’s daintiest
bathtub. I don’t ever want to say until again—
it carries too much waiting inside; it is a parade
of soft pelicans procrastinating. In the day,
I pluck music from other poets’ poems,
and it falls like tender, snow-covered
fruit into my hands. There is no greater joy.
I want a nightgown woven from the wings
of hummingbirds. Or do I mean from
the birds of humming wings? Or is my nightgown
just a linguistic invention—a cage of syllables
cascading all about me, a rain of hums
I wrap around me hungrily?

TODAY I AM NOT

a 23-year-old woman
holding a lime-colored,

perspiring cocktail
in a nightclub with black

octagonal mirrors.
I’m not the word asleep

in my husband’s mouth
as a dark bird lifts

packages of bright
wind on its somber,

steadfast back. I’m not
myself at 20—a tilted,

unblinking match
flaring down the black

of a British night,
confident I will spot

the hostel up ahead.
I am not a shoe, a shush

or a shut-up. Meanwhile, the rose
pirouettes and scuttles

on its stem—a pink crab with soft,
flirting claws and vivacious

thoughts. Today, edges scold
and blur, so I lean

into charcoal algorithms
and bleeding clouds. I’m not decisive,

not a precise record-keeper
of animal or plant life. Saxophones

hum and sweat
among the clairvoyant

petunias and lavender
phlox. I am not

a fox—all sleek, nocturnal
journal-keeping and inky

footprints in the purple
grass. What a gas it is

to be an extra in a film—to populate
rainy cities and street corners

with your pale arms and
blurry sins! I am not

my whims, my short-winded
whistle, my steamer trunk

of sequined fears. I am not
an aptly-peeled pear.

_______________________

Alexandra van de Kamp is a native of New York and has recently moved to San Antonio,TX with her husband William Glenn. She taught writing and rhetoric at Stony Brook University for eight years. She is the Creative Writing Classes Program Director for Gemini Ink, a nonprofit literary organization based in San Antonio. She also teaches in The Writing Program at University of Texas at San Antonio. Her poems have been published in numerous journals nationwide, such as: 32Poems, The Cincinnati Review, River Styx, The Denver Quarterly, Sentence, and The Connecticut Review. Her full-length collection of poems, The Park of Upside-Down Chairs, was published by CW Books in 2010, and her chapbook, Dear Jean Seberg (2011), won the Burnside Review Contest, judged by Matthew Dickman. Her new chapbook, A Liquid Bird Inside the Night (2015), has just been published by Red Glass Books—an independent press based in Brooklyn, NY. A second full-length book of poems, Kiss/Hierarchy, is forthcoming from Rain Mountain Press in April 2016.