The Queen’s First Door
If the Queen were to touch a door, would she find joy of a sort she’s never felt before? Or more likely, unaccustomed resistance. A bit of pushback. A loaded spring uncoiling then recoiling. The small hydraulic hiss from the hinge. A creak. Almost a shriek, as if oil has been held back, overdue, and rust set in. A snarl like the sound just before the cat’s paw reaches around a corner with claws aimed at her royal ankles. There is another danger in the doorway. In the step through the thin passage that sets rooms apart. What if she were to pause there between her bedroom and the hall? Or just before going outdoors where anything can happen? What can give her courage? The comfort of crystal knobs. The familiar feel of an orb in her palm. The power in her firm grip, the twist, and, when necessary, a self-assured shove.
Betty’s Current Status
I’ve got a boombox I bought in 1985. I only play two tapes, Beastie Boys and Nine to Five. I found it in the attic when I finally got divorced. It’s the one reason I’m still alive. That and a cat named Beetlejuice and a son in California who FaceTimes with me twice a week. And a check from the Bastard with whom I never speak. Not even a check really but an e-transfer from his lawyer. Into my account from that no account. I quit buying razors. I quit buying Nair. “Grow where the hell you like,” I say to my body hair. Not that I don’t care, but that instead I found some value there. Some beauty really. My reflection wasn’t their perfection anymore. I am the one who can, after some adult pottery classes, turn mud into a plate, into a vase, into a magic mask. The mask is a way to see and be seen more clearly. The mask has one eye a bit cockeyed, nose a little off center with one nostril flared. Not like the photo I had made for Match. That one is posed, lit up, touched up, softened up, made up, and smoothed out. That one got 200 messages in 36 hours. What took you so long, guys? The one message I might have answered began, “I too have seen tragedy. At our age, who hasn’t?” I almost read it. I felt a kinship there, but a distant one like the shadow image in a family photo of a forgotten third cousin. I held the mask between me and the screen. “He knows how to play the records, but honey you know those grooves too well. You know those moves,” said the mask. The mask ain’t illin’. The mask knows the truth. Some places it’s all takin’ and no givin’. Pass me the scalpel and I’ll make the incision. I make my own decisions. I cut out the part of my brain that goes on suicide missions. I mean Beetlejuice has his favorite box and I’ve got mine. I turned all the mirrors in the house around so they won’t shine.
A Place Less Foreign She ordered a greyhound, a drink invented for lost souls to down in bus stations. Quick and stupid. Three of those and you start to sink into netherworlds where you drown the villages once deep-rooted in your blood and bones, places you've more than outgrown, your shoulders too broad for borders, that soon-past life. "Girl, there's more for you to have ahead," promised Drink Number Two. She wore rings. "She is some guy's wife," they seemed to say. Yes, they were fake. She was new now. Nothing she said or did were lies so much as whims. She felt both sleepy and awake. Alive. And glad some parts were dead. She needed a place less foreign than home. Some place beyond despair and routine. She was almost there.
Paul Jones has published poetry previously in Indelible and in many journals including Poetry, River Heron Review, Broadkill Review as well as in cookbooks, in travel anthologies, in collections about passion, love, and in The Best American Erotic Poems: 1800 – Present (from Scribner). Recently, he was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Web Awards. His chapbook is What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common.
A manuscript of his poems crashed on the moon’s surface in 2019.
His book, Something Wonderful, will be available in November 2021 from RedHawk Publications